Living in a Vacuum Never Made Anyone Successful

Author Sharon Ledwith visits my blog.

Spying on Your Competition is a Great Way to Success

by Sharon Ledwith

Spying is a catchy way of saying “do your research and stay tuned in.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s a mandatory part of being successful. It’s also a great way to build connections. There’s an old saying that to be successful you have to stop obsessing about the competition. I agree with that to a certain degree, but to be unaware of what other authors in your genre are doing is never a smart idea.

Regardless of what you write you need to be dialed into the competitive landscape. Knowing what others in your target market are doing, writing about, and promoting can be key to your success as well. Not that I would ever encourage copying, but being in tune with your genre and market can be a fantastic idea generator, not to mention it gives you the ability to stay ahead of certain trends that haven’t even surfaced at the consumer level yet.

First rule of spying: study your target market, the books as well as other authors in the industry. It helps you to also differentiate yourself from them in products, services, and pricing. Again, you don’t want to copy, you just want to be aware. Another lesser known reason for doing this is that if you’re struggling with your social media (like me)—both from the aspect of what platform to be on to what to say to drive more engagement—keeping these authors on your radar will greatly increase your marketing ideas. Living in a vacuum never made anyone successful.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you want to know who else is writing on your topic or in your genre. Google search is a great place to start. The results will not just turn up names and book titles but also show you the best ways to interact with your reader.

Google is packed with names of authors who write about your topic or genre. As you begin to compile your list, I want you to do one thing: ignore big brands because it’s likely that they can do anything they want and still be successful. If you’re a middle grade writer, names like Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull come to mind. These authors are big, powerful brands. You want the smaller names—the people you may not immediately recognize. Why? Because they have to try harder. If tomorrow Riordan or Mull decided to put out a book on poetry, while their fans might be surprised, they would likely still buy it. But if a lesser-known author did that they’d look like they have writer-ADD. Not good.

So start putting your list together, as you do sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Twitter and any other social media site they use. That’s what I do. Aside from the obvious reasons why you want to do this, I’m a big fan of supporting other authors in my market. Share their Facebook updates, retweet their great Twitter posts, and like their Instagram images.

One of the hidden gems of this research is it will also show you what social media sites to be on. If you’ve been struggling to figure out where your market resides, this strategy should really clear that up for you. Why? Because if you’re plucking names off of the first page of Google you know one thing: whatever they are doing to show up in search, they’re doing it right. Google has made so many changes to their search algorithms that you simply can’t “trick” the system anymore to get onto page one. Look at their updates. What are they sharing and why? How often do they blog? Are they on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Is there much going on for them on Pinterest or Instagram? Really spend some time with this. Not only will it help you tune into your market but it will cut your learning curve by half, if not more.

Successful authors leave clues. Are you following their bread crumbs?

Here’s a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person…

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls, and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future.

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder.

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

 

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat.

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Never…Stop…Writing

I’m currently working on my third book. My first book, Her Name, was released last year. My second book, Loving Again, will be out this November.

I have a tentative title for my new book. The beginning of the story is set and the last scene has already been written. What I don’t have is a middle. I don’t yet know the words that will fill the pages from 27-103. The bones of my story lack any meat.

Knowing how the story ends should make the book that much easier to write because the path couldn’t get anymore clearer. I am writing towards something. The signs are all pointing specifically to one place with precise directions– turn left, then right, then left again. But instead of driving straight to my destination, I’m making unnecessary U-turns.

Writing is hard, but it doesn’t have to be this hard and I know that.

I also know the first draft is only for me. I’m supposed to get the words out first and edit later. I’m not supposed to go back and rewrite scenes.

Move forward. Keep going. Don’t stop writing.

If something is unclear about the plot or character development is weak, make a note and highlight it. I can get back to it later, but whatever I do I’m not supposed to stop writing.

NeverStopWriting.

Yet, I’ve been staring at blank pages for months now, lucky to get a couple dozen scenes written that most likely will be long gone once the final draft is completed.

Where I had planned a first draft to be finished by Aug 1 (not gonna happen), I am now clinging to the hope that it will be completed by the time Loving Again is released.

I have numerous works-in-progress, unfinished stories, sitting in a desk drawer beside me. I don’t remember the specific reasons that made me stop writing each of those stories, but I assume self-doubt took over me, as it is trying to do now. I do recall many moments of poring over a story and questioning whether I had anything left in me to write. I still have those thoughts and I’ve only completed two books, and they were novellas.

My writing journey has only begun and already I’m hanging myself over the cliff, pressuring myself with the stressful worries of “Will I make it?”

My passion is writing. It’s always been writing. I know I will never stop, just as I know I will complete my third book and absolutely fall in love with it, and then wonder what all the fuss was about.

What I’m experiencing now is a tiny detour, and as frustrated as I may feel, I know this diversion will make me more appreciative of the moment I finally reach my destination, filled with sweet gratification.

All I have to do is NeverStopWriting.

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Please Help Musa Publishing Celebrate its Three Year Anniversary

To celebrate their 3rd Anniversary, now through Oct 31, Musa Publishing is offering 30% off all its books! Please check out some amazing authors at a spectacular price. Whether your favorite genre is Romance, Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Paranormal, Historical, Classical, LGBTQ or Erotica, Musa offers it all!

Please go to their website, Musapublishing.com, and take advantage of these great prices.

You can find my lesbian romance novella, Her Name, originally $2.99, for only $2.09!

Her Name is a story about a woman, Madison, who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life. She has vivid dreams of the same woman every night, and soon, Madison believes this woman is the love she has been searching for. Madison’s dreams become more intense and she realizes the dreams she’s having recreate moments taken from actual events from her life–and this woman is there for all of it. Madison searches for her, but how can she find a woman she knows everything about… and yet nothing? She doesn’t even know her name.

Below is an excerpt from Her Name:

Shelly and I walked across the dog park, chatting while Shelly’s pooch ran free.

“Freddy! Stay where Mama can see you!” She turned to me. “Has Becca tried contacting you?”

I shrugged. “A couple calls. Some texts, but I didn’t respond, so I think she got the message.”

“Good.”

We walked for a little while, and then she asked, “So, did you really wake up crying this morning?”

I had told her over the phone earlier that day about my dream. I looked her dead in the eye and nodded. “My pillow was drenched.”

Shelly shook her head. “And you don’t remember what you were crying about?”

I glanced toward the sky and shrugged. “In the first dream, I didn’t know her. She knew me, but I was looking at her for the first time. In the second dream, it seemed like we were living together and we had our own little routine, like I’d come home from work and she’d cook dinner. But in this last dream, the way she held me in her arms as I cried was so personal. I wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable around her. And then she told me she loved me.”

Shelly stopped walking and grabbed my arm. “Wait, she told you she loved you?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Did you say it back?”

“Of course I did.”

My friend threw her hands in the air. “How could you tell her you love her? You don’t even know how long you’ve known her for!”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Are you [messing] with me?” I asked.

She looked at me, and I suspected she was holding a straight face for as long as she could before she burst out in laughter. “Of course I’m [messing] with you! This is a [frickin’] dream we’re talking about! She’s not real!” she yelled.

I walked away, but Shelly followed me. “What? You’re mad at me?”

“No, it’s my own fault. I shouldn’t have told you. I’m not even sure why I did.”

“I’m sorry! Please don’t stop telling me! I’m dying to hear more about this amazing fake woman.” She cracked up and wrapped an apologetic arm around my neck. “I’m sorry, really I am, but let me just make sure I’ve got this straight so far. You’ve played games with a hose, you woke up naked with her, you cried, and you told her you loved her, but you haven’t even [slept with] her yet?”

I pulled away and gave her a hard look.

She laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did I just insult your girlfriend? If she’s mad, just apologize for me when you see her tonight.”

“You know what!” I yelled. I started to let her have it, but stopped myself. I wasn’t sure what I’d expected my friend’s reaction to be, because they were only dreams and everyone had them.

Thanks for stopping by and please give a Musa author of your favorite genre a chance!

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Just Another Day of Not Writing

I am a writer. I write. Unless I can think of nothing to write. Then I don’t know what I am. I suppose I’m still all the same things I am while I write, when I’m not writing. I’m a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a friend…a basically good decent human being, thank you very much.

Except when I can’t write, I feel like I’m nothing. That’s a terrible feeling. I may still be all those other things, but when I’m not writing, I’m not a writer.

I know how I’m supposed to present this to myself, as well as to others when they ask, Hey Alicia, how’s the writing going?

I don’t say  – It sucks. I @#%^$#% hate writing. I slammed my hand against the wall three times yesterday. My head soon followed. 

Instead, I slouch my shoulders. Apologetic soft grin and utter the words – Writer’s block.

Encouraging smiles all around. Arm pats. Don’t worry, it’ll come back….Write through it…You did it once, you can do it again…Is there anything we can do? 

Yes, feel sorry for me. Feel sorry that I can’t do my job. I’ll remember to feel sorry for the paramedic who forgets how to perform CPR – I’m sorry he’s gone. But I was blocked……..It’s okay. We didn’t like him much anyway. 

I hate the words “writer’s block” and whenever I use it, I verbally abuse myself later. I hate it because it lets me off the hook. It excuses my failure to meet that day’s deadline – one page, two pages, five hundred words – as though it were out of my hands. Does God control writer’s block? No? I didn’t think so. So the ability still must be within me and yet…

We (me) use writer’s block as an explanation because it is prettier than images of punching and slamming walls, or throwing objects. There’s something quaint and self-suffering, very ‘Hemingway-esque,’ about the term “Writer’s block.” Wikipedia defines it as “a condition…in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”

You see…I’m not really bad at what I do. I have a “condition.” I’m excused. I suffer from a “documented” problem that has affected all the best writers – including Hemingway.

The fact is – I need to be inspired. I am a writer who needs to be inspired to write. There are writers who wake up and write. They have a schedule and they stick to it. They don’t have to take walks. Observe Nature. Hear children’s laughter. Or listen to inspiring movie scores on YouTube.

They just write. They Sit. In silence. And write.

Something pops into their heads and they may not know it as they write (or maybe they do b/c they’re just that good) but their ideas will lead to something – a new character a reader will fall in love with, or a surprising twist the reader will never see coming until the words spill from their lips across the pages.

But I need the music. I need the feeling. I need the inspiration. Joe Pesci sits across from me, scowling at me. “I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to…amuse you?”

Yes, Joe, you are. Amuse me. Inspire me. Do something. Please.

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