The Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.
After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.
After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!
I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.
Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.
On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.
Will I do it again? You bet.
I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.
The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.
Erica Wynters is the author of Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder, the first book of the Camelot Flowers Mystery series. She’s also written four novellas making up the series Alexandra Briggs Mysteries. She may have lived most of her life in the frigid Midwest, but now she spends her time in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona. She loves hiking, hunting down waterfalls in the desert, reading (of course), and napping. Can napping be considered a hobby? When not weaving tales of mystery with plenty of quirky characters, laughs, and a dash of romance, Erica works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, helping others find their Happily Ever Afters.
Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder: Gwen Stevens will do just about anything to prove she’s ready to take the reins of the family business Camelot Flowers. But when Gwen stumbles on the dead body of a high school friend, everything else in her life suddenly takes a backseat. Between a corpse, an attraction to two different inconvenient men, and a slew of suspects, can Gwen find the killer…before they have her pushing up daisies?
Do you write in more than one genre? I write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense, but all of my books share some common themes. There is always a love story, there is always some crime committed that must be solved, and there is always a happy ending. I love the combination of romance and mystery or suspense together. I wouldn’t want to write one without the other.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing the second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series. It was an exciting day when my publisher contacted my agent to ask if I’d be interested in writing a second book in the series. I immediately said yes. Without giving too much away, this book has all the charm and fun of the first book, Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder. There’s development in the love triangle between Gwen, Finn, and Chris. There’s a murder to be solved, and as always, someone Gwen cares about is the main suspect, which drives her to become involved in the investigation.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A month after finishing my first novel, I discovered the Romance Writers of America. I was so new to writing that I hadn’t even realized I’d just written a romance novel. So many of my preconceived notions were around historical romances with bare-chested men on the cover. At the time, I had no idea so many wonderful subgenres of romance existed. Joining my local chapter of Romance Writers of America was a game-changer. I met many generous authors who shared their wisdom, gave me advice, and cheered me along on this journey. It’s also where I met my first critique partner. I always tell new writers how important it is to find a writing community. I believe it’s hard to grow as a writer without feedback, and it is discouraging to walk the journey of being a writer alone. We need critique partners and cheerleaders; if those two roles can be combined, then even better.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I wrote my first book in just three weeks! I hadn’t even intended to write a book. The night before, I’d had a dream that I couldn’t get out of my head. By that night, I was still thinking about it. So, with my husband and my kids in bed, I sat down with my computer and told myself that I was going to write out the dream. It seemed like a good idea for a book, but I had no intention of doing anything more than getting that dream out of my head. Three weeks later, I had a finished novel. I spent every free moment I had writing, including too many late nights. It’s impractical to write a book that fast all the time. It takes me about three months now, but it was a fun experience and got me hooked on the excitement of watching a story unfold on the page.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? The second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series will come out next spring. I also have a romantic suspense set in New York City with a publisher, and it will hopefully come out in 2024. I’m also working to get a four-book series published soon. The series is romantic suspense and follows four best friends living in Chicago. Each friend has her own book, love story, and dangerous situation she has to overcome.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Besides being an author, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in codependency and trauma. Because of that, all the romances in my books are healthy representations of relationships. It doesn’t mean couples never have problems, but those problems are never dealt with in a toxic way. Sometimes romance novels can romanticize, for lack of a better word, behavior that is fundamentally unhealthy or toxic. I don’t believe that’s necessary for a compelling romance. I want my books to show a healthier path to love.
Book Link: http://bit.ly/43yWzEe
As a high school forensic science teacher, Pamela Ruth Meyer discovered inventive ways to solve crimes and was inspired to write mysteries. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and the Historical Novel Society. Her debut manuscript was a Page Turner Writing Award 2022 Finalist.
Pamela’s Pitch: Kate Belli’s Gilded Gotham Mysteries meets Bones in this turn-of-the-century love story wrapped in a historical mystery intricately solved by a woman who would one day change the face of forensics for all time.
Journey to Finding an Agent
One day I read about an art exhibition featuring the creations of a woman who’d helped shape forensic science. Poof, the idea for a historical mystery materialized. I dreamed it and spoke it to anyone who’d listen. It was with me when bike riding or showering. And I wrote it—had my first draft. Exhilarating.
I thought I was done. I signed up for a Writer’s Digest (WD) Querying Workshop with an agent I was sure would love my story. She requested the full manuscript, provided I fulfilled the romance genre’s major requirement—change the ending to a happy one. Challenged but hungry, I took to the keyboard. Months later, I had draft #2. Unfortunately, the agent had run into trouble, and most of her staff had quit. I never heard back from her.
If you fall off the horse, you get back on, right? Enter WD Querying Workshop 2. I read the agent’s reply, heart pounding. POV? Head-hopping? I’d never heard of these things. The very skeleton of my story would need to change—the revelation was bone-crushing. A year later, I had a story told from five distinct POVs. Next step … pitch the manuscript at the 2020 WD Annual Conference. I signed up, hefty price tag and all. But then Covid punched. I was to make a video of my pitch for agents to watch remotely. It must’ve been pretty good because 7 out of 8 agents requested submissions. Surely at least one would love it and offer representation.
Alas, no. But their rejections gave helpful tidbits about the manuscript’s weaknesses along with spoonfuls of encouragement. Now with actionable feedback, I could fix it. Novel-writing classes, conferences, workshops, and contests followed—an enthralling and enlightening process that helped me realize how very far I’d yet to go on the journey to publication. Humbled and aware, I figured out something important—I needed a professional editor. Said editor recommended using fewer POVs and taking out the multi-chaptered thread that had been the original spark of the idea to write the story in the first place. Devasted, I cried for days. But I tell you now, not even for an instant did I consider giving up. I bucked up and tore down what I’d built to make room for what would become. My story got better. With it, I entered the query pit in full force.
Out of 60 agents, only a few had requested pages. Slap. Pow. Bam. Crickets and crickets and crickets. That was the moment I could have given up. Of course, I did the opposite. I paid the largest fee to date and struggled through the month-long lessons of the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference. Slowly, it seeped in. My story needed something a gazillion other mystery stories didn’t have—a unique selling point. The facilitating agent’s personalized and razor-sharp insights made that blatantly clear. Weaving that necessary thread into my plot would take serious mental gymnastics. But I’ll tell you I’d already learned the most important thing I think a writer can learn—trust your subconscious to deliver an answer. Solutions came. Words came. Write, write, write, I did. Now, I thought, I have a story they’ll want.
2022 WD Annual Conference. This would be my first live pitch. The line extended the entire hotel-length hallway. Inside, I’d spend the precious hour waiting in an agent’s line until I reached the front. Then, 90 seconds to pitch and 90 seconds for feedback, including submission instructions. Then repeat. I’d done my research and ranked agents in order of most likely to want my story.
An announcement. My #4 and #5 agents didn’t come. Darn. The doors opened. I dashed to agent #1. She requested a submission. Next line… Time was called, and home I went, four requests in my pocket. Surely, one of these will love it.
The next day WD sent a link to query the absent agents. I did. A week later, my agent #1 responded. She’d found my writing “pedestrian.” My tears from this experience filled buckets. With none of the other agents requesting more, I turned to rewrite #6. My subconscious brain started niggling me about my story’s ending not fitting with my characters. As fate would have it, it’d take months of mulling it over.
Before the final ending took shape, agent #5, who’d been absent the day of the Pitch-Slam, requested the full manuscript. She’d be abroad, so I shouldn’t hear back from her until a given date, at which time I was to ‘rattle her cage.’ Two days after that date, I did just that. Then I went out to buy a lottery ticket—the prize a staggering billion dollars.
Fifteen minutes later, while standing in line, my phone pinged. It was her! I’ll trade the billion dollars for her. ‘Yes,’ I pleaded to the sky. Expensive, no doubt, but I swear to you that was the best deal I’ve ever made. She loved my story. Further, she knew and loved my characters almost as much as I did. Elation… I have an agent! Her only concern had been the ending. Lucky me, I had changed it. We’re now awaiting word from several editors, leaving me with an interesting mix of agony and euphoria up here in the clouds. I promise to let you know what happens next along our path to finding my story’s forever home. Until then, wish me luck.
Proudly represented by AKA Literary Management: www.akalm.net/
Blogger Intrusion: Check out the fantastic miniature Pam sent me:
Suzanne Baginskie recently retired after twenty-nine years as a paralegal/office manager with the same law firm. Formerly a short story writer, she has written and sold many fiction and non-fiction stories. During Covid-19 in 2021, she authored her first book, Dangerous Charade, submitted it to a traditional publisher, and was offered a five-book contract to write a series. Her FBI Affairs novels blend mystery and suspense with a bit of romance. Suzanne has been writing ever since her mother gave her a diary for her eighth birthday. Unknowingly, her mother’s inspirational nudge helped the writer inside her emerge.
Dangerous Charade begins when an undercover mission in a Las Vegas Casino goes wrong. FBI Agent Noelle Farrell’s cover is blown, and someone wants revenge. She’s sent to Florida under the Witness Protection Program, where she runs into her old partner, Agent Kyle Rivers. He’s assigned to keep her safe. Deep in hiding, someone targets Noelle. Kyle vows to protect her, unaware she has a secret—one her assailants already know.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Six months during Covid-19, and here’s why. I entered a Harlequin contest advertised for romantic suspense novels with a six-month deadline. They asked for the blurb, a synopsis, and three chapters. My submission was chosen, and the novel had to be finished in the required time. After working at a law firm, I worked well under pressure. When I sent the completed manuscript in, my book made the final ten but didn’t win. Two months later, a new traditional publisher advertised for romance manuscripts. I submitted Dangerous Charade. Shortly after, I signed a contract for a series. Each book can be read as a standalone.
How do you come up with character names? I use three different ways. Sometimes, I search for the first name in an old baby name book, which shows the meanings, origins, and derivations. My surnames are borrowed from the daily obituary page. I also used the telephone book’s white pages before they became obsolete. At times, I feature one of my friends or family’s names, first or last. Then I see if they mention it after they read the book. It’s one way to see if they really read them.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I write high-profile female characters who work alongside their macho FBI male partners in the Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide Division of the FBI. The circumstances they face are basically the same for both sexes when working on a mission alone or with a partner. Therefore, my female agents harbor the qualities of critical thinking, good communication, make dire decisions in dangerous situations, and are brave enough to risk their lives to bring down the perps in a run wild way. All the titles of my book begin with Dangerous.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I set my novels in real towns. Analytical, I tend to research so I can use the correct interstates they’d travel and some highlights of the city to add to the ambiance. I also like inserting the weather because it may play a role in my books. My first novel is set in the small fishing town of Crystal Springs, Florida, the second in Allentown and the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the third in Daytona Beach, Florida. My continuing FBI theme of Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide is based on the Orlando area. It ranks third in the nation for the highest human trafficking crimes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m writing my next book, Dangerous Undercurrents, Book Four in my FBI Affair
s series, and I hope to have it completed very shortly. I’m a frequent cruiser and a Thalassophile (a lover of the ocean.) This book will take my FBI characters off dry land and have them board a cruise ship without any weapons to solve an undercover mission on a seven-day cruising adventure.
Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09JPCX2CX
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Florida Mystery Writers of America
Romance Writers of America
Florida Writers Association
Florida Gulf Coast Sisters-in-Crime
Not long ago, Vicki published the tips below in the Public Safety Writers Association’s newsletter. She previously posted the tips on her blog (https://vweisfeld.com). The purpose is to help all of us in “reader relations.” I can’t think of a better way to start the new than by sharing her words.
Readers may be quite willing to help an author but may not know how or may need to be reminded (possibly more than once). You can use these tips in your own promotion—take copies to readings, put them in your own blog or newsletter, etc., etc.—or, if you’re a reader who wants to give a boost to your favorites.
I developed this list around the time my mystery/thriller, Architect of Courage (reviews are great, btw) was published. But I saw it could be a generic product others could use—just a small Thank You for all the support the writing community has given me.
I hope you find it useful—reprint it freely! And customize it with a picture of you or your book (instead of the blue box), and links to your content in #s 8, 9, and 10.
Friends and family members can be incredibly patient when they ask an author solicitous and innocent-sounding questions—like “How’s the book coming?”—and are met with blank looks, or, worse, groans and sighs.
Most authors today—OK, James Patterson’s an exception, and so’s JK Rowling—find that reaching “The End” is just the beginning of their work. Now they have to let the world know about it.
If you have a sense of how much time and effort authors invest in their books, maybe you’ve wondered “What can I do? How can I help?” Yes, indeed, there are things you can do that will help! And, whatever you find time to do, you can be sure it will be greatly appreciated!
Ten ways you can help promote an author or book you admire:
1. Buy your friends’ books. They may have written it with readers like you in mind.
2. Don’t be too quick to pass around a book; instead, encourage others to buy it. Amazon (or book stores), and the author’s publisher keep most of the price of the book. If a book sells for $16, the author receives $2 to $4.
3. Remember, books make great gifts! Maybe a friend or family member needs a thank-you or has a special day coming up.
4. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of book marketing. So, tell people about a book you’ve loved. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Marketers say it takes 13 to 15 repetitions before a message “sticks.”
5. What you say about the book in an Amazon or Barnes & Noble review will influence other would-be purchasers. No need for cringy flashbacks to high school book reports. Just say the two or three things you’d tell a good friend who asked, “Read any good books lately?” Reviews are vital to a book’s success.
6. Share a few words about what you’re reading on social media—GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
7. If you enjoyed a book, your book club might too! Many authors are willing to participate in book club discussions in person or by Zoom, etc. People who’ve read my book have invited me to their book clubs, and it’s a fun change-of-pace for me.
8. You can “follow” your favorite authors on Amazon. Search for one of their books, click on the author’s name, and if they have an author page, it will come up with a big “follow” button.
9. If your author has a newsletter, sign up! Author newsletters often include interviews, reviews, and favorites.
10. An author’s blog and website are other ways to keep track of new releases and to learn more about the authors you like to read. Remember, they create them for you.
Many thanks, and happy reading!
Vicki blogs at www.vweisfeld.com