Thursday, January 28, 2010

Facebook Fan Page

I was slow to adopt use of Facebook, whether as a business tool or as a personal tool. However, I have changed my tune and now see the usefulness of using Facebook for promotion.

The Fan Page is separate from my personal page. Good. My initial worry was that friends and family would get inundated with book promo postings, but this hasn't been the case.

(You can open the page without being signed in to Facebook, and can do so even if you do not have a Facebook account. Facebook gives you a free vanilty URL once you get 100 fans).

There are, of course, many benefits to having a "Fan Page." It's a fun way to reach an audience you may not otherwise have tapped into. You can get demographics and stats about who your fans are (just general demographics - no stats are linked to individuals by name). It's also handy for planning events such as readings & signings.

I have no idea if Facebook and Fan Pages lead to sales in the end, but the page is certainly great for at least getting your name out there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

R.I.P. Robert B. Parker...

I just saw the news online that one of the GIANTS in mystery fiction has passed away. Robert B. Parker, 77, author of the much loved "Spenser" series, plus many other fiction and academic works.

I don't think any writer influenced me more than Parker did. Much of the work I did for my MA was on mystery fiction. I read early essays by Parker, I wolfed down every Spenser novel, I referenced or quoted Parker/Spenser more than any other source.

I studied his novels and learned a lot about writing from them. The settings were great, the pace was just right and the characters... oooh... the characters: Spenser, of course, and Hawk! and Tony Marcus and all the recurring characters.

I will truly miss being able to run out to buy the latest Spenser release and then curling up in bed with a good mystery.

Thank you Robert B. Parker for all the stories and enjoyment. You shall be missed by many.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Judging & Book Awards

I’m more than a little curious to hear what you folks have to say on today’s topic: Crime Fiction Awards. What do they mean?

As you likely know, there are all sorts of awards for writing, from the “high-brow” awards for capital “L” literature, such as the Man Booker, National Book Award, PEN Award, Pulitzer, and so on. Then, of course, there are several genre-specific awards, for everything from romance, to western, to sci-fi.

For crime and mystery fiction there are several honours, including:

• The Edgar Awards, given by Mystery Writers of America
• The Hammett Prize, given by The International Association of Crime Writers
• The Dagger Awards, given by The Crime Writers’ Association
• There’s also The Anthony, The Agatha, The Nero, The Shamus, The Macavity; plus awards for sub-genres, such as cozy, thriller, romantic suspense, and on and on.

The first thing I wonder about is what these awards mean to readers, including book retailers and librarians. Do people make a point of watching for the announcements of shortlists and winners? Will an award prompt you to try a new author and/or a type of mystery you may not normally read? If you are a bookseller or librarian, do you routinely stock up on award winners?

Part of my curiosity stems from the fact that there are just so many books to choose from, and there is so much information out there about which books to curl up with (reviews in newspapers, and on Amazon, various blogs, Good Reads, etc.). With all these resources – all of which are accessible and immediate – why wait for an annual award...?

However, the above is only part of the reason for my curiosity. I have many more direct reasons for thinking out loud about crime fiction (and other) awards.

I am an author member of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC). Like other mystery fiction organizations, Crime Writers of Canada offers an annual award for excellence in crime writing. The awards are called the Arthur Ellis Awards (the pseudonym for Canada’s official hangman!)

The Arthur Ellis Awards (AE) are given in seven categories, including Best Novel, Best Debut Novel, Best Young Adult and so on.

Each category has three judges. The judges read each of the submissions for their category, and then they must come up with a shortlist for what they consider to be the five best books in their category. They must then choose one winner from the shortlist. There’s a party in early April to announce the shortlists, and then in June the winners are announced at the AE Awards dinner.

Like other writers’ organizations, CWC is a non-profit; much of their funding comes from membership dues. And, like several writing awards, the AE awards involve recognition, prestige, publicity... but not much in the way of cold hard cash, sigh... There are expenses involved in running the awards, though, not the least of which is shipping and delivery of all these books to all the different judges (who could be in any part of Canada).

Now here’s what you probably don’t know: many book awards and book contests have an entry fee, which is usually paid by the publisher when they submit your book(s).

I can understand that entry fees offset administration and other charges, and I suppose that charging a fee would ensure (to some extent) that only serious submissions are entered.

The fee to enter the AE is $35 (plus three copies of the book). Other mystery awards have no fee, and other literary awards (Stephen Leacock Awards) charge up to $100 to enter (plus TEN copies of the book or books).

The AE submission fee of $35 has created a bit of a stir among Canadian crime writers. Some feel this fee is too high (the fee was only $25 last year), especially when added to the cost of sending copies of the books.

So, what do you folks think of this? Should book awards have an entry fee? If you were an author and your publisher was unwilling to pay the fee, would you pay it yourself? And what about self-published authors? They don’t have a publisher who may (or may not) foot the bill.

Finally, do you think winning an award makes that much of a difference in overall sales?

I look forward to reading your comments!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book promotion article from NY Times

Hi Folks,

This is a quickie post. I have to share this essay I read in this morning's New York Times Books section. Some great ideas about promoting your book. Have a look; it's a really good article!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Guest Speaker & Grammar & Writing

So, last night I was a guest speaker at a Creative Writing class at a local college. It was pretty cool to talk with the students about writing and my experience with being published for the first time and all of that cool stuff.

It was interesting to see their reactions when I talked about GRAMMAR!!! Ugh, of course, not an overwhelmingly fascinating topic, but a necessary one. One student asked if it was okay to skip/overlook/ignore grammatical errors (and/or punctuation and spelling), because the editors/proofreaders and others at the publishing house could/would catch them and fix them.

No. No. Nonono! And no!

First of all, you have to know the rules before you break them. Second of all, you want to send them the best product you can. Thirdly, you don't want to create extra or unnecessary work for them. Think of it this way: if you were a publisher would you want to take on a manuscript that needed little work or lots of work before it were ready to go to the printer?

As for the remark above re: rules and breaking them: Well, no, your book doesn't have to be 100% to-the-letter, grammatically perfect. Write a sentence fragment, if it is effective. End a sentence with a preposition, if it works. Let characters say things like "I ain't going nowheres" if it suits them. But... know what the rules are before you take creative liberties with them. It will result in a much better final product!

The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University is a very helpful grammar resource.

My first interview ever!

This just came out this morning. Of course, I was very happy to read it. Published in "Niagara This Week".

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Character Names

I'd like to hear from some fellow writers about the following:

How do you choose your characters' names?

I actually spend a fair bit of time on this and just when I think I have it, I change my mind again.

Do you dig through old yearbooks? Look at the phone directory? Use friends/family/neighbours/acquaintances for inspiration about character naming?

Are surnames harder than first names? Do you have diminutives or nicknames for your characters? Do you try not to have too many first names that begin with the same letter? How important are names to your readers? Is it hard to avoid cliches with some names/characters? Finally, is it more of a challenge to come up with ethnic names/names that reflect diversity?

My second manuscript is done - and has been done for a while - but I'm still not 100% happy with the first name of one of the key characters. Sigh...

Friday, January 8, 2010

More good reviews!

I'm so very fortunate! I just saw two more reviews for "Blood and Groom". Both reviews are on blogs and both are really good!

Living a Life of Writing says:

"A fun fast paced read, with a better ending than I could have imagined, Sasha Jackson deserves a repeat performance. The writing is witty and fun, with more than a few twists on cliches."

Check out the review at:

The next review is from She Does The City, and says:

"Bonus fun for Toronto readers are the spot-on descriptions of local settings like The Pilot, Steve’s Music Store and The Horseshoe. It’s a quick, entertaining read best enjoyed with double vodka tonics and morning after grilled cheeses."

Check out the review at:

It's so great that people are writing about it. For a first time author, I am pretty darn lucky.

I must comment here on my previous post about reviews. So far, I have only had two reviews in traditional press, i.e. print, but I have now had five reviews on various blogs. This leads me to wonder about reviews in general and where readers look for book info. Given that print publishers have reduced the amount of space devoted to book reviews, I think it's safe to guess that more and more readers will check out blogs to find out about new releases... In any case, I'm very lucky (and very glad!) that I'm getting reviews, whether online, in print, or via carrier pigeon!

More on luck later this weekend: Out of the blue today, I got not one but two requests for interviews! I've never been interviewed before, so this will be cool!