Your 100 Fan Club 

“Simply your writing. Write the stories that you think your top 100 will love. Don’t have 100? If you keep making an appearance in person, on social media, in writing guest posts on blogs, that 100 will materialize. If you keep writing and quit banking on one book. If you keep reminding the few you have in a newsletter who you are (avoiding saying BUY MY BOOK), that 100 will happen.”

Source: Your 100 Fan Club | | FundsforWriters

All sorts of people ask writers about their target audiences. I suppose if you write in a genre, that helps define your prospective audience. Or, if you write folk tales set in a defined region of the country, then you might hope the people who live there are part of your target audience. But if you look at demographics, checking to see how many readers like your genre and how many people live where your stories are set, the numbers are quite large.

When we invite people over to dinner, whether a barbecue or a sit-down affair in the dining room, we often struggle trying to make sure we have a compatible group. You might like the Smiths and the Johnsons, but they don’t like each other. So, you decide you won’t try to please them both and avoid inviting them over on the same night.

I see Hope Clark’s top 100 readers as a solution to the struggles we go through trying to please everyone who might read our genre or live in the states where we set our stories. Since those 100 people interact with us in the social media, read and talk about our books, and sometimes post a review to Amazon or GoodReads, when we please them, we are doing the best we can do.

By that I mean, if a group of people waits for your stories, that’s the audience you know and trust. If they think you’re doing a good job, then chances are you’re at the top of your game whether you outsell James Patterson or Jo Rowling. It’s hard to figure out what a million readers might want. But a hundred? Now we have a goal that’s less stressful and more manageable.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Lena,” a magical realism novel set in Florida that’s published by Thomas-Jacob Publishing in paperback, e-book, audiobook, and hardback editions. The well-reviewed audiobook is narrated by Holly Palance, Jack Palance’s daughter.

Do free books devalue an author’s worth in the public eye?

There must be a thousand gimmicks on the Internet showing emerging writers how to become better-known writers. Some “gurus” advocate “street teams” who read and talk-up an author’s books. Some suggest various methods for gaming Amazon’s algorithms so that an out-of-nowhere book suddenly becomes a bestseller. Others say each of us needs a giveaway book that shows readers our style that includes links to the primary books we’re trying to sell.

I’ve had dinner at Antoine’s numerous times and I like their food. One has to earn the kind of reputation they have. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is chopped liver.

There are stories–some probably true–that tell of unknown writers who followed a guru’s publicity program and suddenly sold $100,000 worth of books. These often sound like the claims I used to see in chain letters. And, notably, while I read a lot, I’ve never heard of any of the authors who became rich according to these claims.

If you look at a lot of prospective books on Amazon and elsewhere, you’ll see that the Kindle edition of a well-known author’s fiction costs more than the hardback edition of an unknown author’s novels. Well, obviously people are going to pay more for a dinner at Antoine’s Restaurant than a quarter pounder and fries at McDonald’s.

Yet, sometimes I think emerging authors are setting their prices too low. This reminds me of the old phrase “I can get it for you wholesale.” Sure, but how good is it?

I don’t expect to compete–on price–with John Grisham or J. K. Rowling. Yet, if I set the price of my books too low, this gives prospective readers the idea that I’m not charging more because my work isn’t worth more.  Nor would I expect a mom and pop diner in Peoria to charge as much as Antoine’s. However, when a new restaurant or an emerging author sets prices too low, I think they are devaluing their work.

As C. Hope Clark (Funds for Writers) has said on multiple occasions, writers are often expected to jump at the chance to attend a conference or serve on a panel “for the exposure.” Why do those in charge of writers’ retreats expect us to jump at the chance when everyone else supplying something to the venture–from publicity to catered meals–is being paid?

In a recent blog post, Clark said, “A few people will get their feathers ruffled. ‘Not me’ or ‘I know a lot of exceptions to that’ but the grand majority of people see free as something of lesser value; otherwise, it wouldn’t be cheap. And if something costs more, there usually has to be a reason.”

I agree. Yes, FREE might have its place, but generally, it’s not a good place. It makes us look cheap and unworthy. As Hope says, “In the long run, you deem what you are worth, and the more you give it away, the lower your stock value.”

I don’t think this is the impression we want readers to have. Experience has taught me that giving away books seldom leads to anything positive: the people who get them don’t flood Amazon with positive reviews or trip over themselves to get to my other books. The same can be said for pricing everything at 99₵. Do mainstream authors to this? No, of course not, so when we do it, the price just screams AMATEUR.

Frankly, I don’t trust cheap or free. When I download cheap or free, I’m usually disappointed. I definitely don’t go looking for more of these authors’ works because my time is worth more than the books’ low prices. Sad, but true.

We have a duty, perhaps a right, to price our books reasonably, neither free nor what James Patterson expects. I don’t think it helps us as authors to devalue our work with too much CHEAP and too much FREE.

Malcolm

 

Review: ‘Newberry Sin’ by C. Hope Clark

Newberry SinNewberry Sin by C. Hope Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Readers of C. Hope Clark’s Carolina Slade Mystery Series (“Low Country Bribe,” “Tidewater Murder,” and “Palmetto Poison”) didn’t see Ms. Slade for several years while the author was working on her Edisto Island Mysteries. It’s a pleasure meeting Slade again in “Newberry Sin.”

Newberry has a potential murder, a truckload of motives and prospective suspects, and, of course, enough sin to require the use of oven mitts while reading this mystery. Slade and her petty boss are in town for a radio show when a local man dies under suspicious circumstances. Even though USDA investigator Slade befriends a potential confidential informant, her boss–who has a grudge against her–assigns a less-experienced investigator to the case and orders Slade to stay away from Newberry.

Slade is a somewhat less self-assured investigator in this book than in earlier stories. She has good reason to be. Her boss assigns her nothing but administrative assistant duties, there are emotional issues at home and conflicts with her boyfriend, and the looming reality that she will probably be fired if she follows up on her informant’s constant pleas for help. This mix results in a somewhat muddled approach to the case at the outset, and she makes a few mistakes that don’t help.

However, readers of “Newberry Sin” will discover a deeper, more complex Slade in this novel as she wrestles with personal and chain-of-command issues while trying to sort out who might have killed whom and why. The book starts out at a high pitch and never slows down. Every page brings a new revelation or incident that clearly shows Newberry will get worse before it gets better.

Slade doesn’t want to become one of the casualties or let the bad guys get away with whatever they’re trying to do to a nice town (except for its contagious gossip).

I wanted to savor this novel for a week or so, but I couldn’t because the plot made me feel like I was riding a bat out of hell with no brakes. Slade seems to have a similar opinion.

I received a free ARC (advance readers copy) of “Newberry Sin” in exchange for an honest review.

My 2012 review of “Low Country Bribe” is here.

View all my reviews

Malcolm

Of Calendars and Deadlines

“Know what direction you are going instead of waking each day without defined purpose. Of course you have days off. Of course you build in a day of rest. But having missions and goals give more substance to your dreams. And the more organized you are, the more you accomplish, and the more efficient you become at reaching more dreams. The planning makes you seem oh so shrewd and wise.”

Source: Indie Spotlight on Mystery Writer C. Hope Clark – Anita Rodgers Mystery Writer

Sound advice from author Hope Clark as part of her current blog tour in support of her latest novel Newberry Sin. I’m the worst person to advise anyone about planning because I seldom do it. That’s my loss. But I see that those who keep their priorities straight tend to get more done. That certainly applies to writers. If everything else comes first, then a person really doesn’t want to be a writer.

–Malcolm

P.S. I’m currently reading and enjoying “Newberry Sin” and plan to post a review of it here soon.

 

 

Review: ‘Murder on Edisto’ by C. Hope Clark

Murder on Edisto (The Edisto Island Mysteries, #1)Murder on Edisto by C. Hope Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This well-written and highly readable mystery/thriller is marred only by the fact that it begins with a formulaic set-up for novels of its genre: A tough-as nails woman, who went north for her career, experiences a devastating personal loss, escapes from continued threats to herself and her son, and runs home to her parents low country town in South Carolina for recuperation and solace only to find herself caught in the middle of a crime spree.

No sooner has she moved in to her family’s long-time Edisto Island beach house, than her next door neighbor–and old friend from her childhood–is murdered and an odd series of break-ins begins in the tightly knit community. Clark does a good job building the suspense. Almost everyone in the community appears to be a suspect–including the police.

Callie Morgan’s experience as a Boston detective sergeant gives her plenty of reasons to wonder whether or not the local police department is capable of solving such crimes. While the police acknowledge that her experience as an ex-cop might provide them with valuable help, her continued nightmares and jittery nerves make them wonder if she is, as one man says, “damaged goods” and too flighty to be taken seriously. Even her teenage son wonders if her head is on straight. On top of that, some residents suspect her of the break-ins since they began on the day she moved into the beach house.

While there are strong men in the book, ramping up multiple possibilities for romance, suspicion, arguments about police procedures, and “being rescued,” the author allows Callie to slowly find herself. And that makes for a very satisfying conclusion.

Malcolm 
View all my reviews

Review: ‘Lowcountry Bribe’ by C. Hope Clark

Authors often ask “What if” when they have an idea for a plot. When C. Hope Clark first thought about a civil servant at the Department of Agriculture reporting an attempted bribe by a farmer, she must have asked “what’s the worst that can possibly happen?”

Carolina Slade (and you don’t call her “Carolina” unless you’re her mother) is a USDA official who plays by the rules. While others might have overlooked hog farmer Jesse Rawlings’ offer of a bribe in hopes he would never bring up the matter again, Slade tells her superiors. After that, the dust never settles.

C. Hope Clark’s protagonist in the dazzling debut mystery/thriller “Lowcountry Bribe,” is a Charleston County manager who coordinates federal loans and their repayment by farmers. When she leaves her desk, it’s to inspect a farm, not to carry a gun and catch bad guys. Yet, as a Cooperating Individual (CI) she has no choice but to help agents Wayne Largo and Eddie Childress prove Rawlings tried to bribe her.

The case is getting a lot of attention from Atlanta. Slade wonders why. Perhaps there’s more to the bribe than she knows, a greater level of fraud that might implicate her former boss who disappeared last year or a co-worker who shot himself in the office last week. Slade can’t even be sure Largo and Childress aren’t investigating her. A supposedly easy “Get Jesse to repeat what he said Friday” turns into a dangerous crash course in crisis management where the stakes are much higher than missed loan payment or a reprimand from the boss.

Some publishers would have categorized “Lowcountry Bribe” as a mystery/thriller/romance because the novel includes romantic elements as well as Slade’s feelings of approach/avoid, trust/distrust insofar as agent Largo and his motives are concerned. Regardless of the book’s official genre(s), the danger and intrigue Slade is drawn into are industrial strength, requiring a CI who is tough enough to view blood on an office wall as “O-positive primer,” savvy enough to think a like federal agent and experienced enough to apply humor and sarcasm to methods and practices that don’t measure up to her high standards.

Clark knows the territory. She lives in South Carolina, has a degree in agriculture, has worked with the USDA for 25 years, and is married to a former federal agent. This information appears on the novel’s back cover. By the time readers finish the novel and find out the worst that can possibly happen, they will have discovered that Clark also knows the territory of deftly plotted fiction, realistic dialogue and place settings, and how to tell a story that burns like a stiff drink with a touch of sugar.

Clark is now writing the next novel in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series. For readers who like great storytelling, that’s the best that can possibly happen.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and paranormal stories and novels, including “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”