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#AuthorBootCamp Takeaways

T'is the season for writer conferences! So much great information and tips being shared, and I don't even have to leave my house. Pretty awesome, I think you'll agree.

#authorbootcamp is an event organised through http://www.bytethebook.com/ who have the aim of "helping publishers and authors make connections in the digital age". 

Whilst I couldn't be in London for the in-person event I did have fun following along on Twitter. Here's a few takeaways for the event:

If you liked this event, be sure to check out the upcoming Promo Day event on Saturday 30th May. Promo Day is an annual online event for people in the publishing industry dedicated to promoting, networking, and learning. This years event takes place on Saturday 30th May and registration is completely free. Just go to www.PromoDay.info and click on "Register Now".

The day will be packed full of free webinars by industry experts on a variety of topics related to author branding and book marketing. There will also be live pitch sessions with publishers, loads of opportunities to promote and network, and chances to win prizes in giveaways. It's going to be awesome!

Hope to see you there, and remember, you can get more out of the event by joining the conversation using the hashtag #PD15 to talk to the people who will also be attending, even before the event starts.

Register now for #PD15 at www.PromoDay.info. A whole day dedicated to promoting, networking, and learning. It's completely free too!

#IndieReCon Takeaways

Over the past few days I've been busy at an online conference called IndieReCon.  The event was founded by authors S. R. Johannes and Ali Cross in 2013, but this year has partnered with Alliance of Independent Authors.

#IndieReCon Takeaways, www.writersandauthors.info

What is IndieReCon?

IndieReCon is a global conference focussing on all stages and levels of self-publishing. Run across three days, we’ll be offering live events online and offline, wherever you are in the world.
Our aim is to make publishing a mission possible. We offer advice in a fun and practical way, with an emphasis on ensuring we get the best people to tell you the best ways to publish your books and reach your readers. 

The event was awesome! So much great information being throw around, and such a supportive, engaged community. I highly recommend attending this event in the future if you've not been before. 

With so much information being offered it's been hard to keep up with all the action but here's a few of my favourite snippets from IndieReCon:

How many of you are indie authors? What made you pick that publishing route? What advice do you have for writers considering self publishing?

8 Sites for Easy Visual Content Creation

More and more space is being given to visual content. Social media sites are offering bigger banners, more space for posts with images, and larger profile avatars. Pinterest, Instagram, and other visual social media sites are currently the fastest growing on the web. As writers, you might be more comfortable with words which is why I thought I'd dedicate today's post to sites that make creating quality visual content super easy.
8 Sites for Easy Visual Content Creation, www.writersandauthors.info
This graphic was made with Canva.

Here's 8 sites for easy content creation:

So now you have free, easy to use, tools to help you create a variety of visual content to help you in your marketing efforts. Whether you need to edit an author photo, show off your website, create an infographic for a guest post, or just want to have fun experimenting with visual content, now you can.

Know of another great site for that helps you create/edit visual content for free? Share the link in the comments section below.

10 Tips For Author Radio Interviews

In order to ensure that you’ll have an enjoyable and productive radio interview that hopefully will interest listeners in your book, you need to be very well prepared.  After doing many of these interviews, here are my 10 tips for successful interviews:

1. Your answer to any particular question should not extend for longer than 60 seconds.  Anything longer than this will likely lose the listener, annoy the host, and use up too much of the limited time that the radio station is allocating to your interview (often this is approximately 10 minutes).

2. Anticipate what questions you are likely to be asked—and have your answers prepared on index cards –but DON’T read the cards in answer to any questions—just use the content of the cards to remind you what you want to say.

3. Have a separate index card for each topic that you want to cover in the interview—this will help ensure that you don’t forget to say certain things that are important to you.  These items should be those that you think will be the most provocative and interesting to listeners so that they will want to check-out (and hopefully purchase) your book.

4. Be prepared for questions that don’t relate to your book.  The interviewer is likely to ask about what your ‘credentials’ are for writing the book, what your background is, etc.

5. When you speak, your voice should sound animated and happy during the interview.  If you sound ‘down’ or boring, the listeners will tune-out mentally and the interviewer may truncate the interview.  To help sound “happy” –place a mirror in front of you and make a point of smiling –because it has been shown to be a scientific fact that if you are smiling, your voice will sound happier!

6. If your interviewer isn’t talking about your book—bring him around to doing so in a subtle fashion.  Don’t avoid his questions, but try to answer with something like, “Well, just as in my book, Miracle Man, the protagonist Robert James Austin, experiences ____.  Hopefully, this type of answer will remind the interviewer why you are there—i.e., to promote your book.

7. Have a short –i.e., 60 second synopsis of your book prepared.  If  you’re lucky—the interviewer will ask you what your book is about-and then you can give the synopsis.  This is important because the listener needs to know what your book is about—and the interviewer may or may not give an introduction which is adequate.

8. Remember—you are doing the interview to promote your book.  So your goal during the interview is to provide enough “listener interest” to induce the listener to (a) remember the title of your book and your name, and (b) buy the book or at least want to find out more about it.

9. Be prepared to tell the listener (a) where they can purchase your book, (b) your website details (if you have one), and (c) your facebook/twitter contact info. This should be done at the end of every interview—and usually, the interviewer will ask you to give that information to the listeners.

10. Hopefully, your interviewer will have read your book.  In my experience, that yields the best interviews.  But be prepared for the interviewer who hasn’t read more than the back cover description –you’ll have to work harder in an interview like that—but it can still be a very good interview.

Purchase Links:   
William R. Leibowitz has been practicing entertainment/media law in New York City for a number of years. He has represented numerous recording artists, songwriters, producers and many of the leading record companies, talent managers, merchandisers and other notable entertainment businesses. At one point, he was the Chief Operating Officer/General Counsel for the Sanctuary Group of Companies, a U.K. public company that was the largest ‘indie’ music company in the world (prior to its acquisition by the Universal Music Group).

William has a Bachelor of Science degree from New York University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a law degree from Columbia University. He lives in the village of Quogue, New York with his wife, Alexandria, and dog, George.

William wrote Miracle Man because of its humanistic and spiritual messages and because he feels that in our current times--when meritless celebrity has eclipsed accomplishment and the only heroes are those based on comic books, the world needs a real hero--and that, of course, is Robert James Austin, the protagonist in Miracle Man.

Catch Up: 

A Closer Look at Author Websites

Although social media has made it super easy to connect with readers and build our author brands, an author website is still a must have accessory for all authors. Most authors know this and so have claimed their little angle on the web (if you haven't add that to your to do list now). 

With millions of books beginning published daily, that means that competition for clicks to your website is high. Just as we face the issue of "how do you make your book stand out from the crowd?", we also have the issue of "how do you make your website stand out from the crowd?" 

A Closer Look at Author Websites, www.writersandauthors.info

Today I thought we could take a closer look at some author websites to give you an few ideas for elements to consider for your own author websites. 

The website of author John le CarrĂ© is a good example of author branding as he uses terms like "intercepted" when pulling Tweets. This fits perfectly with his author brand as he write spy novels. Social media is well integrated throughout the site (he clearly has a preference for Twitter). One thing I did notice though is that although his home page has one of his book covers and an photo of him on it they are both tiny and hidden away at the bottom. I did like the idea of a page for "sound and vision" for highlighting multi-media content. 

Under you've been in hibernation for the past couple of years you no doubt have heard of author E.L. James (hint: she wrote the Fifty Shades of Grey series). I have to say I was a little surprised by her author website. Although you get a 17+ warning before entering the site, I guess I was expecting something a little more... I don't know, maybe some handcuffs of something. The site is in fact very simple (in a good way). Well laid out and clutter free. Social media is in the forefront here too with her Twitter feed being featured on the homepage. Links to her other social media profiles are also clearly placed at the top of the screen. One thing I really liked about her site for the "Community" tab. Not only does she provide a one page stop for following the action on all her social media profiles, and another for info about events, she also has a page for fan sites. Whilst not all authors have fan sites, I liked the idea of having a special place to showcase fans. I also liked the FAQ's page.

The website of J.K. Rowling also surprised me. I'm not sure what I was expecting but this wasn't it. Given the global impact of the Harry Potter series I could see why she opted for a language selection as the landing page of the website. I personally don't like having to click anything before I get to see a website but it did make me think about having language options. Unfortunately the click before you see anything didn't stop there though. Once you select your language you then get an overlay with directions about how to use the website. Big turn off. Whilst the information might be useful, it left me with a feeling that if directions for use are needed, the site needs to be improved. Could be just me but I didn't like this feature one bit. Just made me think the website would be too much hard work to navigate and, had I not been visiting for the specific purpose of writing this article, I would have left without ever seeing the actual website. I stayed but still wasn't very impressed. Although I liked the timeline idea and there were various ways to search for content, I didn't find it very user friendly. 

I also visited the website of Bernard Cornwell. One thing I really liked about this website was the "Your Questions" and "Your Comments" tabs. The site was easy to navigate and interaction with the author is made easy. His Facebook page is obviously where he connects most of social media and the link is given priority placing throughout the website. He also features a YouTube video on his homepage and provides a link for more video content.

These examples are all famous authors. I picked them for that reason. As you can see though each website has pros and cons. I hope this has given you a few ideas for your own author websites. It's made me think about my own (which is www.JoLinsdell.com in case any of you fancy a visit ;)).

Feel free to share the link to your own author website in the comments section below so we can all pull together some more ideas. 

Also, what are your pet peeves when visiting websites? What are the must-have features of an author website? 

Interview with Gail Chehab

Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book, THE TUNNEL, is Set in Gaza on the eve of the Arab Spring. As the seeds of revolution are being sewn, Omar Hamdan is a Palestinian and doting family man in a region in constant upheaval. Skirting the Israeli-imposed embargo in the Occupied Territories, Omar transports black market goods from Egypt to Gaza through his tunnel. However, complications arise for Omar and his family when his daughter, Hanan, is diagnosed with  leukemia. Hanan is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant, but treatment is impossible in Gaza. Refusing to give up hope, Omar, his daughter and family travel back and forth through his tunnel for treatment in Egypt, but each time they do so, they run the risk of getting caught. And time for Omar and his family is fast running out…

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I believe the reader will enjoy THE TUNNEL as it mimics real life which is full of surprises. When tragedy struck the Hamdans, it did not knock politely but crashed through the door. Politics, war, money, superstition, along with cancer are what entered the Hamdan’s lives. Every time they felt as if they reached a solution, there was another problem even bigger than before. THE TUNNEL is a testament to the endurance of spirit and the way a family regains their hope in a region occupied by turmoil.

What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was little I wanted to be an archeologist or the first lady on the moon. I lived in a small town where my father was the village dentist. This was the farthest thing from the moon or digging up ancient fossils. As I got older, I dreamed about making gobs of money on Wall Street while living in a luxury two bedroom apartment. Somehow I got that dream, and I hated it. Yet along the way, good things happened—I travelled from Africa to Latin America, got married, and had two wonderful children.
When I was five months pregnant with my first child, I took a business trip to China. Having a Sunday afternoon free, I climbed the Great Wall. In my belly, my son-to-be felt heavier than any stone in the wall. When he was born, I got two hundred emails while I was still in the hospital. They weren’t all congratulations. Do this and do that. All urgent business matters. With my hormones out of whack and the burning desire to breast-feed, I did the unthinkable and quit my glamorous job to stay home full-time with my son. Despite the constant changing of diapers and keeping up with my son who eventually had the energy of an insect with twenty legs, I started to read again. At first, I fell into my old bad habits of reading business and economic journals, but then I slowly discovered novels and some poetry. After I completed Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, I held the book tight to my chest and wondered, how did he do that?
A few years after my second child was born, I left my beloved New York and moved to California. Eventually, both my children were in preschool and I found myself with a bit more time. Hesitant to step back into the corporate world for fear of not being there for my children, I started to secretly dream of becoming a writer. Yet I just didn’t know how. It seemed so impossible to write a book. I had never done a creative thing in my life even though I was itching to. A year or so later, I finally found the courage to show my insides to anyone who would read my prose, and walked into my first creative writing class at a local university. Everyone had a manuscript in hand except me. I felt foolish. I had nothing, except my dreams, and my determination.
We were given various assignments and I was terrible at each one. The teacher would read mine out-loud (anonymously—thank God) and rip it apart each time. It was the perfect example of how not to write. However, for some insane reason I loved writing and I just couldn’t give up. When the course ended, I came back for more punishment and signed up again. Something amazing happened during round two—I suddenly got the hang of it. I was becoming a real writer. Our assignment was to write a first chapter. I wrote more than the first chapter. I wrote an entire novel which became The Echo of Sand, and won the First Series Award.
I still haven’t flown to the moon or discovered prehistoric bones. But I have evolved into a writer, a marvel in itself.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba with my elderly mother on a People-to-People tour. We were touched by the warmth of the Cuban people, the depth of culture, and the painful separation of families. This unforgettable experience influenced me to write ON THE ISLAND OF SUGAR AND SECRETS, my latest novel of which I am near completion.

At fifteen, Elliot Chan is one of the abandoned. After his mother left him to save street dogs in  Crimea, he is chosen for his immense talent to the play the cello at Carnegie Hall. Yet the opportunity for greatness turns to terror as Elliot is placed under investigation for a horrific crime at his Carnegie Hall debut. Along with his demented grandmother, they flee to Cuba to find her first husband, a lost love, after being separated by 50 plus years of embargo. But Elliot must risk a great deal—in fact he has to leave behind everything he loves—in order to save himself. On the island, Elliot’s exiled grandfather, a former dissident turned hustler, manufactures medicine producing animals that seem like science fiction. He fights his captivity by acting crazy as deception is more powerful than the gun. Fear turns to wonder as Elliot disappears into a netherworld of spies, fugitives, mojitos and smoking hot women. From Canada to Carnegie Hall to Cuba, not even the most talented writers like Cuba’s adopted son, Hemingway, could make up Elliot’s life.

THE ISLAND OF SUGAR AND SECRETS is a testament that explores the generosity of love and a journey that maddens, toughens and restores a teenage boy who grows up.

Who are your favourite authors?
J.M. Coetzee is a writer I greatly admire and whose novels are worth studying for his pose and style. He appears to be an ordinary, slight man but writes like a giant. Whether it is the masterpiece, Disgrace, or the tragic exacting pose of Slow Man, Coetzee takes off his skin to write about bold subjects that are easy to shy away from. He turns fiction into flesh and can still be sincere. His novels are not plot driven, but they draw me in, making it unexpectedly moving. I believe to write well, you have to be brave like Coetzee. You have to filter out the noise and commit to your craft. Every time I read Coetzee’s work, there is always a treasure of knowledge to be had.

What are you currently reading?
I am re-reading the Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. As mentioned, my work-in-progress is about Cuba influenced from when I visited the island nation on a People-to-People tour. I had a chance to meet real Cubans and talk to them while experiencing a socialist state. This adventure provoked me to read The Orphan Master’s Son which takes place in North Korea, another country which limits information to their citizen. I was intrigued how Mr. Johnson, an America, could write a book on a country that is restricted to western visitors. I am finding the novel to be fascinating in how he has created a powerful psychological portrait by combing research and extending his imagination through fiction.

I am also reading the script of A Raisin in the Sun. Even though plays are not meant to be read, but seen on the stage, I am particularly interested testing my talent at playwriting. I deeply admire the playwright, Lorraine Hansberry, and her portrayal of a family who had dreams and how they dealt with the oppressive circumstances that ruled their lives.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Take risks. I try all the time to take risks in my writing. My best writing comes from the heart and to not hold anything back. I choose stories with complex characters with political backdrops that are in turmoil. I try to humanize a conflict. My writing has to be real. The reader has to see themselves in the pages.

My writing shows various points of view as there is never just one story. Plotting and pacing are critical as each problem must be more severe than the last.

Finally, my stories always have a climax and then an epiphany. The endings are not always perfect because life is not. 

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Even though I love writing, I try not to spend hours and hours at my computer, hacking away at a novel. I find that I do my best writing when I am not writing.  I prefer to write the story while I am either skiing, running, or biking in the great outdoors. When something is not working on the page, I take a long run or ride my bike in the mountains where I live. As the elevation is hammering away in my chest, scenes and dialogue come to me quickly. There is nothing better than a woodpecker pecking at a tree while I’m composing dialogue in my head. It is easier to write volumes in the forest or mountains as nature coaches me along.  

There are also moments when I need to completely stop writing and clear my roaming mind. This is when I love reading a good book with my Labrador at my feet and my Corgi curled up in my lap. I also love playing the cello, volunteering in my community, and traveling with my children and husband.

What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
My favorite quote is by Hemingway who once wrote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” 
As a writer, it has helped me to be prepared for rejections, and lots of them. It is something good. It makes me stronger and a more resilient writer.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
My family is very supportive of my writing career and encourages to me write more. I am particularly grateful to them for their feedback. Writing is a rewarding, but lonely business and to hear from my family along with my readers is the fuel that lights a passion to continue.

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