Jennifer Lyon
Monday, March 21st, 2016
Writing Sprints by Carrie Ann Ryan

Thanks for having me, Jennifer. My name is Carrie Ann Ryan and I’m a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels and novellas. I’ve also done all of that within four years, which, as some of you know, is a little crazy. Jennifer asked me here today to discuss a little about my process and how sprinting helps me get things done. My process happens to work for me for now, but I know that eventually I might need to alter it a bit.

To start, I’m a plotter. I know the titles of my books for each series, which character goes with each book, and the main plot of each one before I even put a word on the page. While that can change, having an idea of where I’m going helps me focus.

I’m also a mathematician and chemist at heart, so numbers make me happy!

I set myself goals for each day when it comes to writing, 3k, 5k, 10k for that day so I can slowly work on my book. If I think about each book in parts, it helps me relax. Rather than worry that I have five weeks to write 100k, I can work on things per day. I also know I can’t do things alone!

I’m in a Sprint Loop of ten or so romance authors where we not only discuss business, but do sprints. We use SKYPE but only the text part. There’s no need for video without coffee! We’ve done 15, 20, and 30 min sprints where we focus solely on writing for that time and at the end, report how many words we have. Its not a competition as everyone works at different paces, but it keeps us accountable. I can usually get around 900 words in 20 min, but I know that not everyone can do that. Sometimes I can only get 400 words, but I know that I focused for those 20 min and at least wrote.

Why do small sprints and not #1k1hr? (1000 words in 1 hr)

Well I can’t focus for that long. If I have to sit at my computer and try to write for 60 min, my brain wants to do something else. I’ll start moving in my chair, I’ll get distracted by a cat, or literally a bird outside my window. By doing it in small spurts, I can focus for a smaller amount of time with less distractions.

That doesn’t mean I’m perfect and won’t get distracted, but I do my best to focus for those 20 min.

After those 20 min, we usually take 5-10 min breaks for social media, talking to our spouses, research, or bio breaks. More importantly, we force ourselves to get out of our chairs and stretch. Many of us have joint issues from sitting for so long and other health issues, so doing a group stretch actually is working wonders!

Another thing I have tried recently is using my FOCUS app. I set it for 20 min and that counts as my timer. (I used to use my iPhone rather than a web browser so I wouldn’t get distracted by the internet!) The FOCUS App refuses to let me get on the internet yet still let’s me keep on my Skype loop. You’ll be amazed how many times you go to your browser for something once you hit a sentence that pulls you out of the story. My writing output has increased nicely when I started using it.

Example of writing sprintsOne more thing you can do is keep a record of your writing. I have a wordcount record for each month, book, series etc. I’ve always kept it because I like numbers and it keeps me on target for a deadline. However I’ve also been doing a hand written one for daily counts. It has what my goals are for the day in increments of 1000 words on the left side, and I write the time of day when I hit that goal. It gives me an idea of how I’m doing during the day and where I get stuck.

All of this though, sprinting, focusing, writing down word counts, all of it is so my brain can relax and I can dig into the story. It keeps me on track because writing is a business and I have commitments, and it lets me know when I need to push a bit and when I can breathe and work on a special project on the side.

I hope this helps you if you’re looking for a way to focus and if you ever need anything, feel free to email me!

Thank you so much and happy sprinting!

***

Carrie Ann Ryan Author Photo

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan never thought she’d be a writer. Not really. No, she loved math and science and even went on to graduate school in chemistry. Yes, she read as a kid and devoured teen fiction and Harry Potter, but it wasn’t until someone handed her a romance book in her late teens that she realized that there was something out there just for her. When another author suggested she use the voices in her head for good and not evil, The Redwood Pack and all her other stories were born.

 

Carrie Ann is a bestselling author of over twenty novels and novellas and has so much more on her mind (and on her spreadsheets *grins*) that she isn’t planning on giving up her dream anytime soon.

 

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Friday, March 18th, 2016
Happy Friday!

It really is a Happy Friday here in our house. Bailey is feeling better! Wizard and I took Bailey to the vet on Thursday. Just a FYI: My son and his girlfriend would have done it too, but it all happened so fast. Bailey’s done this off and on for a while, he’s suddenly in pain, then after a couple days it clears up for a few weeks or longer, then it happens again. We needed the vet to see him in pain to evaluate the situation. Anyway, the good news is Bailey is in very good shape for his age. Strong heart, lungs, kidneys,etc. He does have arthritis in both his hips though, and it’s obviously painful. Once they determined he was healthy enough, they gave him a shot and started him on oral meds. Here’s the result:

Bailey before seeing the vet. This isn’t even him at his worst, so you can see it was bad and why we were worried.

Bailey Before Vet

Bailey less than 24 hours after starting the meds:

Bailey after vet

 

Amazing! Yesterday, he was outside playing, hunting lizards and eating very well. He’ll have some ups and downs, etc., but overall he will be much better and we’re all so happy. Also, my youngest son’s girlfriend works for the vet so she helped us get him in and took such good care of him :-) The vet was awesome too. Bailey was a very good boy.

This weekend we are playing with Bailey and getting ready for the carpet which will start Monday. It should go pretty quick, no more than two days.

I’m also finishing the edit on book one of Savaged Vows. I have one more timeline issue to fix in the book, then I’ll do a straight edit and I should have it ready for the editor by the end of next week.

Now for an important programming note: On Monday, March 21st, NYT Bestselling author, Carrie Ann Ryan is sharing how she used Writing Sprints to pen more than 40 novels and novellas within four years. I hope you’ll all stop by! I may not have an internet connection, but I’ll try to access the blog on my phone.

What are you all doing this weekend? I hope it’s something fun!

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
Wednesday Worthy

My website was down off and on yesterday, so getting a post up has been a challenge. Hopefully the blog will cooperate and let me finally get this posted. So the good news is the tile is all done and we’re happy with it. I put a picture of the stacked stone fireplace surround up on my FB here if you’d like to see it. Now we get a few days break before the doing the carpet next week.

The bad news–Bailey is not feeling well. As I’m writing the blog, my son called and let me know Bailey’s hip pain flared up suddenly again. Wizard is on his way there to pick up Bailey, so by the time you all read this, Bailey will be here with us. I may take him to the vet if he doesn’t feel better by tomorrow (I asked my son if that was okay, and he said yes.) I know they are really torn about leaving Bailey right now, but they aren’t going far and I can reach them if Bailey needs them so I urged them to go. Poor Bailey, getting older really sucks.

Now for Wednesday Worthy Candidate. I pulled this guy out of my files. What do you think?

 

handsome muscular man

Is he worthy?

Monday, March 14th, 2016
Fun in House Renovations

No Business Monday Today…I’m barely managing to be an adult right now :-) I just about hit my limit at 11:00PM Saturday night. First we had three long days of guys in the house with jack hammers, sanders and tile saws, spreading dirt and chaos everywhere. Saturday somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 we hurried the tile guys out the door, scrounged up clean clothes and drove an hour and a half to a birthday dinner for our son’s girlfriend. She’s totally worth the effort and we had fun. Got home around 11:00pm and Wizard crashed. He was out in four-point-two seconds. I was doing a few random things like setting up coffee, changing clocks (so it was actually midnight!) and realized I still had my necklace on. I took it off, walked into my bedroom to put it away and smashed my toe — on a toilet sitting in the middle of my freaking bedroom. There I am hopping around, swearing under my breath, wishing Toilet Karma on the guys who left a toilet, A TOILET! in my bedroom.

That is just so WRONG!

And Wizard never woke up. He slept right through my Toe vs. Toilet Hopping Mad Showdown.

Okay, now that my foot is not throbbing (my toe is barely sore today), I will concede that the toilet had been carefully moved and placed mostly out of the way, and I had seen it there earlier. I just forgot.

Then this morning, I told Wizard the story and he laughed. Hysterically. There may have even been tears. And the every time I said, “It’s not funny!” He laughed harder.

So you see, there is no way I could tell THAT story and have any credibility to do a Business Monday post :-)

Otherwise, I am in love with our new tile. The kitchen is grouted now and so pretty. Today the guys (who are awesome and I’ve decided to forgive for the Toilet Incident) will clean the tile one more time, then put the oven and fridge back in. Hopefully all the tile work will be done by the end of Tuesday. Wednesday morning we pick up Bailey Dog, then the following Monday we start  part two of the house reno — The Carpet Project.

I’ve discovered it’s hard to write in a construction zone (yeah, who here is surprised???). But I can edit and revise! So I’m working on getting book one of Savaged Vows ready to go to my editor. I’m actually enjoying tuning out the chaos to focus on that.

Now it’s your turn–how was your weekend?

Friday, March 11th, 2016
Happy Friday!

So my house looks like this:

006 009

By last night, they had almost all the old tile (except one bathroom) demolished out and the bare cement cleaned, and today they start laying new tile. So far, it’s going well and we’re happy, but so tired. All this will be worth it! And let me tell you, the guys yesterday worked HARD. I was happy to escape into my little corner of a bedroom and write. It might be mentally stressful, but it’s nowhere near as physically demanding.

This weekend, they guys will be here Saturday working, then Saturday night we have a dinner we don’t want to miss. What are you doing this weekend?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
Wednesday Worthy

Ah yes, the joys of home improvement projects. I look around my house .and see nothing happening. Sigh. Over the weekend, Wizard and I cleaned out my bookshelves in the office, the upstairs and downstairs closets. We have boxes stacked in the garage (after a 100 trips carrying stuff down the stairs…okay maybe 20 but it felt like a 100!) and now we wait and wait for this elusive tile to come into the warehouse here in So Cal. To be fair, we knew ahead of time this delay could happen, but still…I hate waiting and Wizard hates it even more. We should get an update today.

In the meantime I’m figuring out some things in my Savaged Vows three book series. I’ll be turning the first book into my editor April first–that book is fully drafted, just needs a quick rewrite and then a clean edit. And I have the second about half way drafted. As usually, I have all kinds of plot threads I’m trying to weave together. But that’s what makes it so fun and challenging. Of course we all know I stress like a mad woman, but that’s just my personal brand of crazy.

In the meantime, hearing about my frustration with the flooring, some of our previous Wednesday Worthy candidates stepped up and offered to do the job. I’m not sure they are actually qualified, but I figured we’d take a look and see. So if you had to pick between these guys, who would you choose?

#1 looks very construction like, but not sure he needs a hard hat to do tile and carpet. And what’s the traffic cone and rock for?

 

Handsome muscular young construction worker shirtless outdoor holding stone and traffic cone ** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

#2 is obviously good at moving heavy stuff. That’s a bonus, although we don’t have any tires inside the house. Nor do I want any tires inside the house!

Handsome muscular man in the old garage.

#3 looks intelligent enough to solve problems, which is great for the floors and even better if he helps me plot and write!

Portrait of a smiling naked man wearing spectacles against black background

So who is your pick?

Monday, March 7th, 2016
7 Marketing & Publicity Points by M.J. Rose

It’s Business Monday and today I have a very special guest: New York Times bestseller, M.J. Rose is the author of sixteen novels, the founder of the first marketing firm for authors – Authorbuzz.com, and co-founder with Liz Berry of 1001 Dark Nights .  Here, she shared her tips on marketing and publicity in the ever-changing publishing world.

No one can buy a book they’ve never heard of.

So, how do readers hear about books? Everyone likes to say it’s word of mouth, but it’s not possible to tell a friend about a book until you’ve heard of it yourself.

That’s where publicity and marketing come in. What’s the difference between the two? Marketing is paid placement on blogs, radio, TV, newspapers, etc. These show up as ads, advertorials, promotions, blog tours, and more. With marketing, if you pay for it, it shows up. You hire a marketing company and they buy the space. The attention is guaranteed to be there.

Publicity is the opposite. You pay a publicist to pitch your book to newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, radio interviews, and reviews. You are paying for the publicist’s effort to get you some attention. A publicist’s rate of success is determined by the quality and quantity of her connections.

7 Marketing & Publicity Points

1. 85% of all books get less than $2,000 in marketing from the publisher. And more than 85% of all books sell less than 1,000 copies.

2. 95% of all branded bestsellers get more than $25,000 in marketing and PR, and often it’s upwards of $50,000. There are never more than two or three books a year that break out on a fluke with no marketing and PR.

When people say, “If advertising and PR worked every book would be a bestseller,” they are approaching it from the wrong direction. The real question is, “How many books have succeeded without any PR or marketing?” and the answer is: very few.

Advertising and PR can’t make every book a bestseller because not every book is good enough or appealing enough. It is much easier to write an exciting ad than to write a whole book. Not even the most brilliant PR and marketing can sell a book people don’t want to read.

3.  Marketing and PR are both valuable, so I advise that if you have a big enough budget you should hire a publicist. Then for every dollar you spend with a publicist, spend two dollars with a marketing company. That way, even if the publicist can’t get reviews and publicity, you’ll still get exposure.

4. Exposure does work. If you take 100 books and look at the ones that had PR and marketing dollars spent on them and the ones that had none, you will absolutely see that the books that had PR/marketing outsold the others more than ten to one. The problem comes when you look at one book at a time.

For instance, I’ve done AuthorBuzz and blog ad campaigns where I have proof that over 10,000 people clicked through and looked deeper at the book, but ultimately the sales were less than stellar. What happened? We got attention for the book, but when potential readers looked more closely, they didn’t buy. I’ve also done campaigns where we did minimal marketing efforts and the book went back to press, which the publisher never expected, or the book ranked higher on a bestseller list than they expected or it simply sold through at a better rate than other books in the season/genre. What happened? It was a terrific book. It resonated with readers. PR and marketing can’t sell books. It’s worth repeating. PR and marketing can’t sell books.

PR and marketing can expose books to potential readers. The book—the words and the premise, the first few pages, the flap copy, the book cover—must entice, enchant, seduce. The book sells the book.

 In advertising there is a saying: nothing kills a bad product better than great advertising. It’s true for books too.

5. What to spend? The advice I give everyone, and follow myself, is to keep your day job or a freelance job and spend as much as you can on selling your book. I’ve worked with authors who spend $985 and others who, between my services and other efforts, spend $250,000. One way to decide: if you are going to look back and regret spending the money, don’t do it. But if you are going to look back and say, “If only I had tried maybe the book would have succeeded,” then do it. Nora Roberts said you should spend 10% of your advance. For years, James Patterson spent all of his on advertising and kept his job.

6. If you are going to hire a publicist or marketing firm, don’t believe anyone who promises you specific sales numbers. No one knows how many copies of your book they can move and if they start out by lying, you’re going to get screwed. Make sure you look at their testimonials and recognize some of the authors/publishers.

Lastly, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true. People will try to get you to pay money to attend teleseminars on how to become an Amazon No. 1 bestseller for ten minutes. All that achievement actually requires is that you manipulate the system and get 100 friends to buy the book within an hour. Don’t pay anyone anything for advice like that.

mjNew York Times bestseller, ​M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
Rose is the Co-President and a founding member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz. She also runs the blog, Museum of Mysteries.
​With Liz Berry she co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.
In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house, as well as published in more than 15 countries including France (where she is published as Melisse J. Rose).
Rose has been profiled in L’OfficielTime magazineForbesThe New York Times,Business 2.0Working WomanNewsweek, and New York Magazine. She has appeared on The Today ShowFox NewsThe Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USA TodayStern, L’OfficialPoets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
liz
Liz Berry has two passions. She is the executive director of International Thriller Writers (ITW), a trade group of over 3,000 thriller writers from around the world. Previously, she was the long-time director of Thrillerfest, the annual gathering of ITW, which happens in New York City every July.
With M.J. Rose, Liz co-founded and co-operates 1,001 Dark Nights and Evil Eye Concepts, Inc — an Internet marketing company that works to brand authors and expand readership within the romance genre.
Liz has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Georgia and also studied at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Both areas of study have allowed her to gain twenty-plus years of experience in the ever-changing marketing field.
She proudly serves on the Education Committee for the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board, and, with her husband, novelist Steve Berry, operates History Matters, a non-profit foundation dedicated to historic preservation. For more information, visitThrillerWriters.org1001DarkNights.com, and History-Matters.org.
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