A Writer’s Pains and Gains: A Birthday Perspective

Today is my birthday. I’m 57 years into my journey. I’ve been taking time to look back like so many of us do at the beginning of a New Year and then looking forward with excited anticipation to 2012. I’ve learned a lot! I went through a bunch of blog posts I’ve done since 2009 when I was just learning to blog. Some of them are hysterical. But the important thing is that I learned to blog. Creating blogs and all the rest that comes with such things is no easy task. I’m proud of this achievement because I never considered myself technologically savvy. I”m getting better.

I found an editor, Debbie Marrie, at Charisma Media/Realms who loved my book and shared it with others in the company and asked me if I wanted to sell my series at a time when they weren’t even looking for Regency era novels.  I SOLD MY SERIES! I sold it by myself and then I GOT AN AGENT! I’m following Rachelle Gardner to Books and Such and am very excited about what this year might bring. So if you are reading this and wondering if you’ll ever get published just remember that it’s still possible no matter what you hear.

In the past twenty-two years I’ve attended at least two Romance Writers of America Conferences, multiple American Christian Fiction Writers Conferences, one Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and two Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conferences. Along with these conferences I’ve attended a zillion local writers meetings.

I’ve been in a critique group, I’ve received help, given help, and I’ve improved my writing craft more than I thought possible and still have so far to grow. I’ve entered more contests than I could count and I’ve judged a few too. I discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was.

I’ve learned to depend on God. I’ve prayed along with my husband until we had holes in the knees of our blue jeans for our oldest child who has struggled with severe depression and anxiety for the last eleven years, and for her sister who didn’t get enough attention during that time period. She still found her way through our family’s difficulties and instead of going to college when she graduated high school eighteen months ago she travels the world with, Youth With A Mission, serving others.

I’ve had the honor and privilege of making many new friends since I decided to write; some of you here, some from ACFW, some from RWA,some of you I’ve never met in person but I can always find you on-line, on Face Book, on Twitter.  What you’ve given me is so much more than I could ever give back and I’m so grateful for all of you who have helped me and prayed with me and for me and for my family.

So as I’ve said in the past to those who have been discouraged, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. You must not believe them. You must try.

If you get the chance please come celebrate with me at my blog. I look forward to it.

Post Author: Jillian Kent

Jillian Kent is more than enthusiastic about the release of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One. She’s a full-time counselor for nursing students and holds a masters degree in social work. She’s fascinated with human behavior and thought it would be interesting to explore what might have happened in a lunatic asylum during England’s Regency era, her favorite time period. Jillian hopes you will escape into the past with her and find faith for the future.

Write, Market, Sell

Write, Market, Sell is not to be confused with Eat, Pray, Love, although I like to mix it up a little bit. For instance, I love what I do, I’ve been known to eat when I write (love those M&M’s and Skittles), and I pray it all works out. 🙂

Remember when you made the decision to WRITE? Have you learned a lot since then? I know I have. And as long as we keep writing we will continue to learn as long as we make a conscious decision to do so. When we learn to write we have different obstacles to overcome: plot, dialogue, setting, pacing, and so much more.

I think marketing is much the same. When we MARKET we have a learning curve to conquer that is much the same. Some of the marketing obstacles I’ve had to learn about and continue to learn about have to do with: networking, websites, Facebook, twitter, and so much more.

I SELL a product. Again there is a learning curve. There are many ways to do this selling thing: book signings, hand selling, giving away product to hopefully sell more product later, interviews, and so much more.

So just like all of you on this journey with me there are many blank pages to be filled in the realm of Write, Market, Sell. We face a blank page every time we start a new story, but with experience we gain new skills, perspective and technique. It’s the same with marketing and selling our novels. We can’t do everything well all the time, but we can do many things well a lot of the time. So don’t be afraid of facing the blank page in any of these areas, gain wisdom and put it on the page.

What’s the latest skill you’ve honed in any of these areas? What’s one thing you plan to do differently in the New Year related to your writing? And do you nibble when you write?

Post Author: Jillian Kent

Jillian Kent is more than enthusiastic about the release of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One. She’s a full-time counselor for nursing students and holds a masters degree in social work. She’s fascinated with human behavior and thought it would be interesting to explore what might have happened in a lunatic asylum during England’s Regency era, her favorite time period. Jillian hopes you will escape into the past with her and find faith for the future.

CINCINNATI’S BOOK FESTIVAL

I was very fortunate to have my novel, Secrets of the Heart, Book One of the Ravensmoore Chronicles picked for this awesome event. This year was the 5th year for BBTB and I would have missed the deadline if my librarian friend Betty hadn’t encouraged me to apply earlier this spring.

It started off with an author reception on Friday evening. Interesting enough there weren’t many authors in attendance. But I did have an agenda for this evening and that was to see if one of my favorite authors showed up. So I put my copy of Shutter Island in my purse and met my hubby downtown after work. Sure enough, Dennis Lehane was one of the few authors that attended the reception. We were able to meet with him and talk about the next day’s signing and he very graciously signed the book I’d brought with me.

I asked Dennis what to expect the next day since this was a huge event and he’s been to so many book signings  Here’s what he said: 1) Don’t expect to sell a lot of books. He told us stories about signing with other authors in the past where the competition had long lines and he didn’t. That was not the case this weekend. 🙂 2) Don’t sit there with a big grin on your face. In other words, and these are my words, don’t sit there, do something! And I did. I talked and asked questions to as many people as I could, browsers, buyers and other authors that were participating. I did catch myself with a big grin on my face more than once. 3) Have something to do in case it gets slow. It didn’t slow down too much, but I did take a break for lunch and I did take a couple breaks to get a chance to browse. Of course during one of those breaks I had to go buy another Lehane novel, The Given Day.
The points I’m trying to convey here are that you need to make the most of your marketing opportunities and have fun at the same time. 1) Make friends and talk to your librarians if you don’t do that all ready. 2) Look for big events near you that you may have an opportunity to participate in. 3) Don’t be afraid to approach experienced writers like Dennis Lehane and ask questions. That’s how we learn and make friends along the way.

I sold books. Not as many as Dennis but hey I’m just getting warmed up. Joseph-Beth Booksellers were the ones who provided our books for the signing. When we were done for the day they had us sign five more books for the store.

I also talked with the woman who helps organize the future signings for the store and the good news is that Joseph-Beth Booksellers is opening, yes I said OPENING another new store in Northern Kentucky. This is huge with all the closings of Borders and other Independent stores. So some time in the New Year I will be signing again at their store in Cincinnati or the new one in Kentucky.

In addition to all of this I was interviewed by Linda McMaken for an article that will run in RT Book Reviews and she’s also doing a more extensive interview later for Reader’s Entertainment.

I hope this gives you a few marketing ideas and a little nudge that will help you to step out of your comfort zone. You just never know what good things might happen.

So when was the last time you did something to market your current book? What was it? Or have you thought of something you can do that might help you and the rest of us? What kind of book signing experiences have you had?

Post Author: Jillian Kent

Jillian Kent is more than enthusiastic about the release of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One. She’s a full-time counselor for nursing students and holds a masters degree in social work. She’s fascinated with human behavior and thought it would be interesting to explore what might have happened in a lunatic asylum during England’s Regency era, her favorite time period. Jillian hopes you will escape into the past with her and find faith for the future.

Energize Your Marketing Strategies

On  August 1st I wrote a marketing blog, Marketing Can Be Fun, Really! to coincide with Rachelle Gardner’s Blog, How To Market Your Book, that week. What I want to do today is encourage you as you look for ways to market your product. Yes, our books are products and they are very important for our life’s work.

We need to think like business folks as well as authors. This may not come naturally and then again maybe you’re good at this particular aspect of the business. It’s grown on me.  I met a guy at Mt.Hermon a few years ago. Some of you may know him, Jim Rubart. Listening to Jim made me think a bit harder about my natural instinct to market though I didn’t have much experience because up until I’d sold my novel there hadn’t been a need.

I counsel and teach nursing students at my day job. One of the problems some of them encounter in the college is test anxiety. I start my lectures with the words, “Have courage.” That’s what I want you to do when it comes to marketing your novels, have courage.

I want you to brainstorm marketing ideas with someone you trust. Just sit down and rattle off anything you can think of and then pick three that you really like that will energize you as well as your marketing plan. Think out of the box. I’m going to share three of my ideas that I’ve really liked exploring and working on to promote and market my  first book to it’s best advantage.

  •  Find the biggest book marketing opportunity in your area

          I mentioned Books by the Banks (that’s the riverbanks of Cincinnati), in the blog post on my personal blog. Since Secrets of the Heart was chosen for this opportunity some really cool things have happened. (1) I informed my publisher, Realms/Charisma, about signing at Books by the Banks. They kindly offered to send me 1,200 postcards to use for that day and to help promote my book at the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference later this month. That’s awesome! The postcards have my book cover on one side and a nice blurb on the opposite side with my website and the publisher’s website. (2) Dennis Lehane and Judy Collins are now promoting and signing their books at the same event. This will draw an even bigger crowd than expected and last year there were approximately 3,600 attendees.Opportunity galore!

  • Hospital Gift Shops

          I work in a large hospital in Cincinnati,Ohio. I asked the woman who runs our gift shop if she would carry my book. She said YES! Also, a dear friend of ours is the coordinator of volunteer services at the hospital where my husband works. She suggested I talk to the woman who runs the gift shop at there. I did and now they carry my book as well. My husband is an awesome publicist at his hospital and has been wonderful in talking up my book at his hospital. I also have the postcards at the register at both hospitals now. And I’m not stopping there. As time allows I’m asking the other hospital gift shops in the area.

  • Christian Bookstore Week

          When Cara Putman announced information about Christian Bookstore Week on our ACFW loop I got to work and now have a signing at a Kentucky Bookstore the week of the celebration and I’m going to ask one more store near me in Cincinnati if they are interested in having me come sign. So don’t waste time. Get on-line and get on your phone and market your novels.

This is just the tip of the iceberg related to opportunity and marketing savvy. Next month on October 24th, I will report back on what my experience was like at Books by the Banks on October 22nd.

Remember, even if you don’t have a book contract yet, if you’re serious about your writing you need to have an on-line presence, your home on the web. Though it’s hard to draw an audience it’s a good thing to get practice in on how to formulate blog posts, etc. 

What are you doing to energize your marketing plan?

Post Author: Jillian Kent

 Jillian Kent is more than enthusiastic about the release of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One. She’s a full-time counselor for nursing students and holds a masters degree in social work. She’s fascinated with human behavior and thought it would be interesting to explore what might have happened in a lunatic asylum during England’s Regency era, her favorite time period. Jillian hopes you will escape into the past with her and find faith for the future.

The Fine Art of Choosing A Pen Name

I’m using a pen name, a nom de plume, a pseudonym for publishing purposes.

Jillian Kent is a name I created after Rachelle asked, “Have you ever considered using a pen name?” With a smile on my face, I said, “You mean you don’t think Jill Nutter will sell as many books as Jillian Kent?” I had to smile because I’ve worked in the mental health field for years and you can’t imagine what adolescents on an in-patient psychiatric unit can do with a name like Nutter. Rachelle was very professional in providing guidance. I refer you to her blog post: Should I Use a Nom de Plume?

The following issues are ones I took into consideration:

Post Author: Jillian Kent

Jillian Kent is more than enthusiastic about the release of her first novel, Secrets of the Heart, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, Book One. She’s a full-time counselor for nursing students and holds a masters degree in social work. She’s fascinated with human behavior and thought it would be interesting to explore what might have happened in a lunatic asylum during England’s Regency era, her favorite time period. Jillian hopes you will escape into the past with her and find faith for the future.

The Work Place

I’m a Licensed Independent Social Worker employed as a counselor for nursing students within a huge hospital setting. I didn’t know if my supervisor or the president of the college would take issue with my second career. As it turned out, they fully support my efforts and allow me to talk about my writing within the college. I give books away at special events and to help raise money on occasion for things like our Student Emergency Fund. Choosing a pen name was also my safety net in case my work as an author wasn’t embraced or in the event I change jobs in the future.

Name Sensitivity and Setting

I married a great guy with the last name of Nutter. I write historical novels set during England’s Regency era. In England, the term nutter is slang for insane. Go to dictionary.com and type in the word nutter and you’ll see what I mean.  I write a darker Regency romance that includes the exploration of insane asylums and mental health issues. I didn’t want to take the risk that this might all be a bit too much for my readers.  I actually chose the name Jillian Kent for several reasons: 1) Kent is an actual city in England and frequently used as a setting in British novels, 2) Kent is short and easy to fit on the front of a novel and easy to remember, 3) Jillian is similar to Jill, my first name. So when readers call me Jillian it feels very natural.

Availability and Shelf Location 

I had to make sure the domain name was available for my website, that other authors weren’t using the same name, and that it would be placed on the bookshelves in a strategic position. Kent is in the middle of the alphabet. I’m near Karen Kingsbury on the book shelves so if someone picks up her book they just might see my book and be tempted to look at this new author named Kent.

Keep it Simple

I wanted a name that was easy to pronounce. Some folks pronounce Nutter as neuter. My maiden name was Baroudi (Ba-roo-dy). So now you can see even more clearly why Kent works for me.  I love my family and my family names and heritage, but when it comes to publishing, authors with sensitive issues must consider all the pros and cons of the nom de plume.

Have fun

If you discover you should use a pseudonym make sure you put a lot of thought into it. You might have it for a very long time and you want your name to be memorable if you are going to all the trouble of inventing a new one. As a child I was always making up new names because my maiden name was so unique. It’s kind of like starting over and beginning a whole new life.

Have you ever considered using a pen name? What are the reasons you might think about inventing a new name for publishing purposes? Are you using a pen name now?