Friday, March 26, 2010

Is Your Plot Plodding? Do Something Unexpected...

Kinda like this....



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Friday, March 19, 2010

Fabulously Fun Friday: How to Write a Novel

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review of Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

In classic thought-provoking form, science-fiction legend Orson Scott Card offers a keenly observant, occasionally controversial, always worthwhile perspective on the art of crafting characters and selecting POVs. As the heart of our fiction, our characters are arguably the single most important ingredient in the brew of our stories. As a result, it’s hardly surprising they’re often difficult to master. In this 180-page volume, Card gives us the tools to look into the inner workings of the personalities on our pages and help us figure out how to bring them to unforgettable life.



He opens the book with several chapters on inspiration. Where do characters come from? How can we open our eyes to look for nuggets of character inspiration in our everyday lives? His suggestions range from the tried-and-true “watching people in a café” to more thoughtful discussions of how to successfully play on and against stereotypes. He touches upon the various types of characters, including a particularly insightful discussion of types of stories and the types of characters they require. Although he didn’t include the writing exercises that are common in more recent installments of the Elements of Fiction Writing series, he offers a slew of marvelous examples, both from his own pen and from popular books and movies, to underline his points.


The final section includes his thoughts on points of view. These chapters are comparatively short, but they cover deeper ground than what’s found in most analyses of the subject. His breakdown of the various types of narrators provides a clear understanding of a sometimes tricky subject and gives authors solid knowledge on which to base their choice of POVs. This is a highly informative and entertaining read that belongs on every serious writer’s shelf.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Interview with Author/Philosopher Billy Coffey II

Yesterday, we introduced Billy Coffey in part one of an interview that was too long for one post. If you didn't see it, scroll down--it's too good to miss.

AC: About your Snow Day hero, Peter Boyd: he sounds like he could be anyone–as you say, an ordinary man–which makes him immediately sympathetic and universal. But he sounds familiar too, in his observant ways. How much are you and Peter alike?

Billy: I don’t think it’s possible for any writer to produce a book without having a part of him or herself in it. That’s especially true for me. I wanted Peter Boyd to be anyone because I’m anyone. The circumstances he finds himself facing—the loss of his job at Christmastime—are the circumstances I faced myself a few years ago. Like him, I found my faith wavering and my future a cloudy mess. Also like him, I found myself taking a day to wander around and try to make sense of the insensible. Much of what Peter experiences is what I experienced. The only difference is that it took him a much shorter amount of time to understand the truths behind them.

AC: What would you like readers to take away from this book? What did you learn from it?

Billy: These are tough times for a lot of people. There seems to be a thick blanket over this world, and it’s suffocating us more than keeping us warm. People are hurting and confused and trying to make sense of what’s going on. It’s easy to forget that our lives are made beautiful not by our big moments, but our little ones. There’s a lot of everyone in Peter Boyd, and I think we all can find the same sense of fulfillment he does by the end. Sometimes the worst days of our lives can become our best, and sometimes you have to trust your heart when everything is falling apart around you.

AC: Every book proposal has a segment about marketing. What did you write for yours? What’s your plan? How do you reach new readers?

Billy: I mentioned in my proposal that I posted four times a week on my blog, which was steadily gaining readership, and also wrote a weekly guest post for Kathy Richards [author of blog, Hey Look, a Chicken!] and monthly columns for both a newspaper and a magazine. I’m active in social media—especially Twitter—and have since been named a Content Editor for highcallingblogs.com, where I write a bi-weekly post.

The marketing aspect of publishing is now a necessary evil for writers. You really have to put your time into getting exposure for your name and your work. And I’ll be honest—when I started, I absolutely hated it. There are untold millions of blogs out there and hundreds of thousands of unknown writers trying to break into publishing. I felt like a very small fish in a very big sea. Even though that’s still the case, I’m making some headway. The trick to reaching new readers is all about making yourself available to them and not considering them readers at all, just friends you haven’t gotten to know yet.

AC: In your agent, Rachelle Gardner’s blog (Rants and Ramblings), you wrote about a friend who loves to climb and his most important lesson, which he calls “The Middle Rule”:
“When you’re climbing something,” he says, “it’s the beginning and the end that are easiest. In the beginning you’re full of hope. You think it’ll be easy. And when you get to the end you have this rush, a sense of accomplishment. But the middle? That’s the toughest. That’s when you look down and realize you’ve come too far to stop, and you look up and think you’ll never make it. It’s easy to get stuck in the middle of a climb.”
Do you have any advice or encouragement for those of us who are in the middle?


Billy: You’re going to look down just as much as you’re going to look up, and neither is a bad thing. It’s important to pause every once in a while to see how far you’ve come. That knowing can be motivation enough to keep going. And it’s important to take a peek upwards every once in a while too, because you need to see what’s coming.

My advice: focus as much as you can on where you are. That way all the slips you’ve made along the way won’t matter as much and what’s ahead will be easier to face. And my encouragement is this: don’t hate your climb. It’s easy to get frustrated when it comes to writing. Everything comes so slowly and may not even come at all. But the mountain you’re on gives you two things a lot of people lack—it gives you a purpose, and it gives your life meaning.

AC: What are you currently reading? Your favorite book? Favorite author?

Billy: Right now I’m reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, and a collection of letters written by C.S. Lewis titled Yours, Jack. Trying to pick a favorite book is like trying to pick a favorite child, but off the top of my head I’ll say Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways. The thing weighs about five pounds and is a seemingly random collection of quotes and stories and images, and I get swept away every time I open it.

As far as authors go, I think I’ve read just about everything C.S. Lewis ever wrote, I love John Irving, and I think Stephen King is a literary genius. That said, my favorite author is Robert Fulghum. We don’t always agree on everything, but I love his writing style and his sense of wonder.

AC: Just for fun: Tell us about your writing habits–where you write, what you have within reach as you write, what you see when you glance up from the page.

Billy: I’m writing this in the same place and at the same time that I write most everything—at a big table in my upstairs office around 1:00 a.m. Everything I need is in arm’s reach. I have my coffee (Starbucks), a stack of books (everything from Stephen King to Seneca), pens (I’m a fountain pen guy), notepads, and my laptop. And my baseball bat. That last is a special necessity. When I’m stuck, I’ll pace with my bat. I’d like to say waving it around brings me a little clarity of mind, but actually all usually I do is threaten my computer with it.

I love writing at night. I usually start around 10:00 and finish up around this time the next morning. It’s great because the house is both peaceful and dark. It’s not great because I have to get up at 5:30 to go to work.

When I glance up, it’s usually to the television. I understand having the television on while one is writing is considered a no-no, but I like the background noise. And it’s usually The Andy Griffith Show that’s on. You can’t say no to Andy.

AC: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of, writing-related or not?

Billy: I have two great kids. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment given the fact that I have no idea what I’m doing as a father. They were both baptized last Sunday [February 28], and nothing makes a parent more proud than that. When it comes to myself, I try to stay as far away from pride as I can. But I will say that I have a good deal of satisfaction from being able to convince Rachelle Gardner to become my agent and the people at FaithWords to publish my book. I couldn’t have done better.

AC: Finally, I loved the post “How to Take a Punch.” In it, Charlie says: “A man never knows what he’s made of until he gets punched.” I wasn’t surprised by the fact you found the statement philosophical, but now that you’ve been punched, can you tell us what you’re made of?

Billy: I don’t mind saying I got the snot beat out of me that night, though I did manage to get a few shots in myself. All those things you hear in the Rocky movies about boxing making a man out of you are true. It really is a metaphor for life. I didn’t mind the fact I was bloodied and swollen by the time I was finished because of this one simple fact—he never knocked me down. He was too experienced for me to possibly hope to beat, and I was mature enough to know that. Not kissing the canvas became my goal. So yes, I can tell you what I’m made of.

I can take a beating and still smile at the end.



Keep an eye out for Billy's book, Snow Day, which debuts in November.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Interview with Author/Philosopher Billy Coffey


Under Billy Coffey’s black hat is a head that got screwed on straight the hard way, and I’m sure he’ll tell you it still needs tweaking now and then. But under that ol’ hat, I found a man who has his priorities right: God, family, community, work. His wife is his photographer, his children are his inspiration, his friends are loyal--and his work? Well, it just got awarded a two-book publishing deal with Faith Words. Snow Day will be published in November 2010, and there is no book I am more anxious to read.

This country philosopher is no stranger to pen and paper. He wrote his first story at age seven: a five sentence tale about a boy who prayed that God would rid the world of asparagus. Gotta love it.

In researching him for this interview, I discovered a few “Billyisms” that speak volumes about him and his writing abilities as an adult:
“Life with a writer isn’t all bubble gum and cotton candy.”
“Wisdom doesn’t lurk, it dances.”
“Macho manliness trumps stupidity every day of the week and twice on Thursday.”
If you’re on Twitter, chances are you’ve seen him around. Here’s an opportunity to get to know him better:


AC: When you were seventeen, you had an accident in the sixth inning of a game, ending your baseball career dreams. How did you get hurt?

Billy: It was a tear in my rotator cuff the doctor said had actually begun years before. My throwing strength had deteriorated to the point where I couldn’t pitch anymore, so I was switched to shortstop for a while and then to second base.

I was in the field that inning when the batter hit a ground ball past the pitcher. I caught the ball behind second base, which meant I had to make the throw sidearm to my left while all of my momentum was still going to the right. The pressure was just too much for my shoulder to take. It felt like someone had stabbed me in the arm with an ice pick.

AC: For awhile afterward, your Amish grandmother and Mennonite mom must’ve bruised their knees praying for you as they watched you deteriorate emotionally from the loss of your dream. But your “Come to Jesus” moment came not long after your injury in an incident that was too miraculous to be coincidental. [For the full testimony, click here.] Does that time in your life influence your writing today?

Billy: Oh, yes. I think it influences everything today, but my writing especially. It helps give me a perspective of hope I might otherwise not have, and I try to weave that into every story and post I write. If that time on the mountain taught me anything, it’s that every moment is not only a teachable one, but a holy one as well. I realized I had tossed away years of my life focusing on the things that didn’t matter. Since then, I’ve tried to live each day by focusing on the things that do.

AC: You credit your kids with the title of your blog, “What I Learned Today,” when they turned your question around on you: “What did you learn today, Daddy?” You wrote:
What to say? That I didn’t learn anything? That at a certain age a person tends to feel they know too much and have neither the time nor the inclination to know more? That despite what I’ve told them, ignorance most definitely is bliss?
From what I’ve read in your blog, your attitude has shifted a bit. Are you better able to answer the kids’ question now?

Billy: I make it a point to learn something every day now, even if that something I learn today just reinforces what I learned yesterday. I don’t think ignorance is bliss anymore; it can save you from a lot of worry and fear, but it also leaves you blind to the beautiful things in life. I still get that question tossed to me on a regular basis, and I am better able to answer it. Not necessarily because I know more, but because I watch and listen more. If I want to teach my children anything, it’s that curiosity is an amazing gift that should be used often.

AC: I read your post, “Getting the Pain Out,” and wondered at one point just how tall I was going to get from your leg-pulling. Imagine a full grown man “setting his head on fire” to get rid of an ear ache. Then, I read the sucker-punch ending (as Kathy “Katdish” Richards called it), and realized that the story wasn't fiction. Many of your posts are in first person, as if you’ve experienced them just as you’ve recounted for your readers. Do you ever embellish your stories?

Billy: I always change names and occasionally I’ll change circumstances, and for two reasons. One is that I live in the sort of rural town where everyone knows everyone. While we’re more than willing to offer advice and a little gossip to anyone who asks, few people would want me to broadcast their goings-on to the world. So while I actually did find myself talking with a friend who was trying to use an ear candle, I did change his name. This keeps my fellow townspeople from coming up my driveway with pitchforks and torches.

The second reason is a bit simpler. I’m not a journalist, so I don’t really abide by the rule that a story has to be centered around who, what, when, and where. I’m much more interested in the why. Who my friend was, what he was doing, and when and where he was doing it didn’t matter for my purposes. Why he was doing it did. He was trying to get the pain out. That is something we all do, because I think we all carry a certain amount of pain that we want to somehow get out. And sometimes we all do some pretty strange things to do it. So for my purposes, the facts don’t have to have to take center stage. There is truth, and there is Truth. I like to focus on the latter.

*AC Note: This post was too long for one day and too wonderful to cut down. For the rest of Billy's wit and wisdom, tune in tomorrow, same time, same place.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Fabulously Fun Friday: Synonym?


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Special Prize Drawing for AuthorCulture’s Followers!

AC is nearing both its first-year anniversary and the exciting mark of 250 followers! Thank you all so much for participating in our first year with so much enthusiasm. As a thank you, we’re hosting another special contest for our followers. When we reach 250 followers, we’ll be entering them in a drawing and awarding the winner a $25 gift certificate from Barnes & Noble. If you’re not following us yet, be sure to subscribe to be eligible for the drawing.

While you're here, tell us what we can do for our second year to make AC even better. Take a second or two to respond to our survey. The link is in the right side-bar.

Thanks, everyone!
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Never Miss a Typo Again

Proofreading is one of those necessary evils of writing. If we expect any self-respecting reader to take our stories seriously, we have to make sure we’ve presented them as flawlessly as possible—and that means avoiding typos at all costs. Misspelled words, oft-repeated words, missing words, incorrect grammar, misplaced punctuation—all these things are the mark of unprofessionalism. And yet, they’re also mistakes that all writers struggle with, in large part because we’re often blind to our own stories. We read what we think we’ve written, rather than the glaring error we actually typed.




So what’s a writer to do? Following are five tips for catching even the most camouflaged of typos.

1. Distance yourself.

If at all possible, put some time between you and your manuscript. If you’re able to gain a little objective distance, you’ll be more likely to read with fresh eyes and less likely to read things that aren’t there.

2. Read aloud.

Reading aloud does wonders, not only for catching typos, but for helping you gain a better sense of the rhythm of your words. For instance, when you start reading your dialogue aloud, you’ll be able to recognize when the cadence is off.

3. Read to someone else.

Reading aloud to someone else takes our proofreading to a new level by giving us a hyperawareness of our words. Because we begin to hear what we’ve written through our audience’s ears, it gives us a fresh perspective. The bloopers we suddenly become aware of as a result can be astounding.

4. Have your computer read to you.

Adobe Reader (standard on most computers) features a “read aloud” tool that verbalizes your work, so you can hear it while you read along. You can purchase more sophisticated voices in other programs, but this freebie (I call the voice “Howie”) works perfectly for me. After converting your manuscript to a pdf, open it in Adobe Reader, click the View tab in the toolbar. Select Read Out Loud at the bottom of the tab, then Activate Read Out Loud, then choose whether you want to Read This Page Only or Read To End of Document.

5. Dot each word.

Print a hard copy of your manuscript and arm yourself with a highlighter. As you read, place a dot under each word. This will force you to acknowledge each word on the page and keep you from reading words that aren’t there or skipping typos that are present.

Using these five tips—or any combination thereof—will keep your eyes and your mind open for typos, no matter how many times you’ve already read your story. If you have any typo-finding tricks of your own to share, please feel free to leave us a comment. Happy typo hunting!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Ode to Spell Check

by Jerrold H Zar

I have a spelling checker.
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue 
Miss steaks aye can knot sea. 

Eye ran this poem threw it, 
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh. 
My checker tolled me sew. 

A checker is a bless sing. 
It freeze yew lodes of thyme. 
It helps me right awl stiles two reed, 
And aides me when aye rime. 

Each frays come posed up on my screen 
Eye trussed too be a joule. 
The checker pours o'er every word 
To cheque sum spelling rule. 

Bee fore a veiling checker's 
Hour spelling mite decline, 
And if we're lacks oar have a laps, 
We wood bee maid to wine. 

Butt now bee cause my spelling 
Is checked with such grate flare, 
Their are know fault's with in my cite, 
Of nun eye am a wear. 

Now spelling does knot phase me, 
it does knot bring a tier. 
My pay purrs awl due glad den 
With wrapped word's fare as hear. 

To rite with care is quite a feet 
Of witch won should bee proud, 
And wee mussed dew the best wee can, 
Sew flaw's are knot aloud. 

Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays 
Such soft wear four pea seas, 
And why eye brake in two averse 
Buy righting want too pleas. 
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tax Deductions for Writers: Guest Post by Pamela S. Thibodeaux

Writing is more than creating the ‘great American novel’; writing is a Business and a business requires record keeping and tax preparation. Many have already begun gathering information and getting things in order. Most will wait until the last minute then be in a panic. Don’t be one of them, BE PREPARED!

IRS rules state that you can claim a loss for business expenses even if you’re unpublished as long as you can “prove you are actively pursuing a career in writing” and as long as the expenses are considered “necessary business expenses.”

Most writers will use a Schedule C or Profit and Loss statement to file their business tax. This form is found in your 1040 forms and instructions book or from your local IRS office. You can file a 1040 form with a Schedule C and still take standard deductions in lieu of itemizing. Use your social security number and your name unless writing under a pseudonym then it’s your name DBA (your pseudonym). The “Principal Business or Professional Activity Code” (711510) is listed in your 1040 book under the Performing Arts section.

How do you prove you’re “actively pursuing a career in writing” and what are “necessary business expenses”? Here are a few examples:

1). Send letters to agents, editors, publishers. Postage is deductible as well as return postage on your SASE. Do this via email? Print out a copy of your email query and their response.

2). Office supplies (paper, ink, envelopes, business cards, etc.) are valid expenditures. If you have an office set up in your home you may be able to claim a portion of your rent or house note and utility bills for the use of this room. Also, long distance phone calls that are writing related are deductible as well as Internet service fees if you’re using the Internet to develop your craft and/or promote yourself and your work.

3). Membership dues, conference fees, hotel expenses, gas mileage and meals are all deductible expenses even for unpublished writers.

5). Fees related to the creation, development and maintenance of your website are tax deductible.

6). Professional fees and services (CPA, Tax Consultant, professional evaluation or critique, attorney fees, etc)

How do you keep track of all those expenses?

Spreadsheets and receipts. Keep receipts in a standard manila envelope or organized by category in a pocket sized file folder. Spreadsheets are easy to set up and easy to maintain. Most programs like Windows come with a standard spreadsheet application. One column (or page) for Income and one for Expenses. What about all those formulas? Simple. Most spreadsheets have an Auto Sum (S) feature for the addition of a column or you can manually do this by using the formula =sum(cell+cell) or =sum(cell:cell) for a range of cells. Need to subtract, divide or multiply? Formula would be: =Sum(cell*cell) to multiply; =sum(cell/cell) to divide; and =sum(cell-cell) to subtract.

Additional items that can be written off as expenses for published writers.

1). Promotional expenses (brochures, flyers, press kits, press releases, etc.)

2). Books donated to libraries or given away for promotional purposes may be deducted at retail value.

3). Books bought for research.

4). Dry-cleaning those nice clothes you wear for speaking engagements, book signings or other author appearances.

5). Postage and/or shipping fees for books sent to wholesalers, retailers, readers, reviewers, etc.

6). Agent fees and commissions.

7). Set up costs, cover art, and the charge for producing (or buying) yourself or E-published books. Occupational or Resale License fees are also deductible.

Remember, if it falls under “Necessary Business Expense” it is deductible!

Worried about being audited? Don’t. Be careful and be honest.

One more note; IRS suggests that you keep all tax records for a minimum of seven but up to ten years. Remember, tax laws change yearly. For more information visit the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov/, or call them toll free at: 800-829-3676 and request publications such as # 334 (Tax Guide for Small Businesses and Individuals who use Schedule C or C-EZ), #535 (Business Expense –this guide tells you what you can and CANNOT deduct), and #552 (Record keeping for Individuals).

For more information on deductions available to you, check out: Tax Tips for Freelance Writers, Photographers and Artists by Julian Block. Julian Block is a nationally recognized attorney who has been singled out by the New York Times as a "leading tax professional" and by the Wall Street Journal as "an accomplished writer on taxes." E-mail him at julianblock@yahoo.com or telephone (914) 834-3227. His address is 3 Washington Square, #1-G, Larchmont, NY 10538-2032.

© 2003 Variations of this article have appeared in print and e-publications including but not limited to SpiritLed Writer Ezine, Longridge Writers Group Website, and Romancing the Skyz print magazine.



Author Bio:
Pamela S. Thibodeaux has been a bookkeeper for over twenty years. She is the co-founder and a member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is the author of the four-part ‘Tempered’ series from ComStar Media. In addition to the series, her single title novel, The Inheritance and four short stories are available from White Rose Publishing.

Pam’s writing has been tagged as “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.”

All full-length novels are available in print from Amazon.com or through Ms. Thibodeaux’s website. All titles available in Ebook also from All Romance Ebooks!


**Links**

Bayou Writers Group

White Rose Publishing

Amazon.com

Pamela Thibodeaux ~ Author ~ Writer ~ Speaker

All Romance Ebooks
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Monday, March 1, 2010

The Goods on Goodreads


Goodreads is a great place for marketing your books! For those who don't know anything about Goodreads - it is a social networking site that orbits wholly around books, books, and nothing but books. Similar to Facebook, you create an account, make friends, and then start discussing your favorite books.

If you are already published, this post will give you a quick overview of several ways you can use Goodreads to gain exposure for your titles. And if you aren't published, it is still a great venue to familiarize yourself with. But this post will focus towards those with books already available.

Ways to Publicize with Goodreads:

  • First, you should register yourself as an author. To do this, search for one of your books. Then click on your published author name. This will take you to an author profile page. Scroll down to the bottom of that page and there should be a link that says, "Is this you?" Click on that to request admission to the author program at Goodreads. After you are approved you can upload an image of yourself, enter a short biography, add a link to your website, and even add blog posts if you want. (You can also update the Goodreads blog from your current blog via RSS.)
  • Adding your book trailer. To add a book trailer, go to your Goodreads author profile (created in the above step.) On that page there is a section that says "Videos about Your Name." Click the little link that says "add new." Fill in their form and upload the video. The tags are important, because the tags you use will add your book to various video lists on Goodreads. So before you tag your video you might want to peruse the video lists to see which ones you would like your book to appear on and then tag your video appropriately. (Click "Explore/Videos" to see the lists.) To see my trailer on Goodreads click here.
  • Add your book to lists. Goodreads allows their users to categorize their books into lists. To view the lists go to: http://www.goodreads.com/list . You can put your book on a list by either creating a new list or by searching the already existing lists and adding your book to that. Getting a few of your friends to drop by and vote for your book will help it to rise closer to the top of the list and thus gain it more exposure.
  • Join groups that might be interested in your topic. The Goodreads groups are also another great way to make friends with readers who might be interested in your topic. They are not a place to go to simply drop a line about your book - but to make real friends with others of like interest. There are groups for just about every genre. The link to explore groups is one of the main links at the top of the Goodreads home page.
  • List your book for a give-away. On your book's page toward the top right there should be a link that says "list this book for a give-away." The book has to have been released in the last 6 months, or be coming soon to be listed for a give-away. Once you click the link you will be walked through all the steps you need to take to get the book listed. It only takes a few minutes to complete and will gain you some nice exposure for your title. The more tags your book has the more exposure it will get in the give-away lists, so check out the give-away "top" lists and tag your book appropriately.
  • Run an Author Q&A session by creating an author group. You can read more on how to do this here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/featured_groups.
  • Advertise your book. More information about that here: http://www.goodreads.com/advertisers. The price seems a little steep to this first-time author, but if you have a marketing budget set aside, it might be worth the investment.
I've only been on Goodreads for a few months and these are just a few of the ways I've discovered to market my book. There are more options that I haven't gotten to yet. Check out the links under the "Explore" tab to create quizzes, trivia questions, etc. that will draw attention to your title.

If you know of a good way of marketing on Goodreads that I have missed in this post, please feel free to add it to the comments.

BTW, to see the image at the top left of this post in full size you can go here: http://www.photos8.com/view/books_shop-other.html

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