Category Archives: The business of writing…

The Scone Tour*: TV and Me

Time Warner's Studio in Irving, Texas

The Scone Tour took me to Irving, Texas where I arrived “camera ready” to tape an episode of Conversations Cafe with Cheryl Nason.   

Everything takes longer in show business and since the crew was out filming a sporting event, I parked in The Green Room, which is show biz for waiting area, and concentrated on remaining “camera ready”.  

I photographed the door plate

(A bottle of Perrier was the only green thing in the room.)  Sitting there was like waiting for a doctor, and I was glad to have a book to read, even if it was My Jane Austen Summer which I’ve read maybe 2 billion times. 

Eventually, an assistant ushered me into the studio, a cavernous room focused on a cozy living area, with enough light to double as an operating room.  

The actual studio

Everyone was very nice to me, reinforcing my sense of doom, and I was delighted that Cheryl Nason, the show’s talented host, had read my book.  Unfortunately, the moment I took the seat next to her, my upper body contracted rigor mortis.  If this had been a doctor’s office, someone would have explained what was coming and how much it would hurt.  If only I could practice.  

Me with Cheryl Nason of Conversations Cafe

When Cheryl’s TV voice spoke to viewers at home, I knew it was a matter of time.  Like water skiing or having a baby, after a certain point there’s no turning back, camera ready or not.  What would happen if I said, “cut”?    Before I knew it, I was talking, and since I’ve read my book 2 billion times, turns out I can discuss it even in a state of semi-paralysis.  We talked about Jane Austen, the road to publication, and researching characters.  Just when I was getting comfortable with the whole TV thing, thinking about perhaps moving one or two muscles in my upper body or asking Cheryl a question to relieve the one-sidedness, it was time to go.  All done.  And I never felt any pain.  
 

If you subscribe to Time Warner Cable in Texas, you can watch this episode of Conversations Cafe on your TV.  Or, you can watch it here:   http://www.cindysjones.com/cjones-media.htm 

 

*The Scone Tour is my fond name for activities where I share scones and Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea in appreciation for book promotion.

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The Truth About Signing Books

I have been signing books for a month now and want to go on record to say that signing books is not as easy as it looks.  Several times I messed up and had to start over with a clean book.  Sometimes I get carried away and gush.  (New nightmare:  reading old inscriptions in resale copies at Half-Priced Books).  But my all-time worst fear is that a friend will present a book for signing and I won’t recall their name.  Even if we rode to the event in the same car, book signing dynamics cause names to disappear faster than a teenager with a driver’s license.  This is why sticky notes and pens and lines were invented.      

Discussion Question:  Should a person who can spend an hour revising a brief email be inscribing books?  If words came quickly and easily, I’d be a speaker.  Instead I’m the Tiger Mother of Manuscript Revisions.  Me to manuscript:  I don’t care if it takes all day!  Every word in this sentence will demonstrate a brilliant reason for its continued presence or see a blue haze and hear the right click of my mouse!  I will cut, paste, and revise until I get it right.          

And ideally, every book I sign would get a custom-nuanced dedication, drawing on past shared experience (if applicable), hope for present or future enterprises, a hearty affirmation of Jane Austen, a declaration of the appropriate degree of affection and gratitude, all topped with just the right personal motif.  After all, this is my tender newborn I’m putting in readers’ hands.  Husband would prefer that I harness my powerful overthinking skills in favor of something productive, like say, my novel-in-progress.    

He may be right.  Not everybody wants a War and Peace Inscription and it is hard to go deep with people I don’t even know.  Some people anticipate and say, just your name, please.        

My son saw this picture of me signing books at the Texas Library Association Conference and snickered.  Why would anyone want his mother’s autograph?  Pigs fly.

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Filed under Cindy Jones, My Jane Austen Summer, The business of writing..., Writing Nightmares

My Book Promotion Plan

Question:  What do Bingley’s Teas, my debut novel, and my mother all have in common?  Answer:  They are all part of my book promotion plan.   My platform is Tea.  Brainstorming for a small favor to give away at book launch events, and considering that tea plays an important role in my book, I found myself wishing for tea bags with the book’s cover on the label.  Then I remembered Bingley’s Teas Ltd: Home of the Jane Austen Tea Series.  If Bingley’s can blend a tea for Fanny Price, why not blend a tea for my protagonist?  From there, the Tea Idea grew into a means of enhancing the literary experience, lifting the book from a solitary read to a social event.  Basic Plan:
  • Produce Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea, a blend of organic roses and berries in a green tea, available on my website.       

    A Literary Heroine With Her Own Tea!

    A Literary Heroine With Her Own Tea!

  • Hold book talk/signing events at tea rooms.  Work with tea venues to offer “Literary Teas” by providing a book talk after the last course is served.  I’ll bring the tea!  A great place for book clubs to converge.
  • Book Clubs can try this at home.  Book clubs can host a Literary Tea in their own homes.  My website provides ideas, suggestions, and recipes to get organized.

My website:  www.cindysjones.com

How do I know so much about tea parties?  My mother developed Afternoon Tea at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas to raise money for the Cathedral Restoration Fund.  The annual tea involved an army of volunteers and sold out every year:  400  guests at each seating.  Working with my mother all those years, I got the hang of tea production on a grand scale, details of which made their way into my novel.  The recipe for St. Mary’s Guild’s Dried-Cherry Scones is included on my website.   

With all my tea experience, I’ve never helped blend the actual tea.  Working with Julia Matson of Bingley’s Tea Ltd was a joyful collaboration.  Lily Berry’s Pink Rose Tea is an original blend of organic green tea, organic rose petals, narcissus, and whole dried fruits–including strawberries and rhubarb–a combination chosen to illustrate Lily’s fresh, romantic, and often surprising personality.  The tea comes in a pretty white pouch with a window on the back so you can see the beautiful tea.    

Turns out, Twitter was a walk in the park as far as book promotion learning curves go.  For the past two months I have been homeschooling myself in paypal buttons, tea tasting, shipping costs, and commercial label design.  Don’t get me started on file conversion.

Launch is 26 days away.  Have you pre-ordered your copy?  You can place an order with your favorite online bookseller from my website:  www.cindysjones.com

If you are in Dallas on Tuesday, March 29, please join me at Border’s Books on Lover’s Lane at 7pm for a launch event.  The party is free and open to the public and I’ll bring the tea!

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Labor and Delivery of a Novel

Snow Day

I almost did not post a blog today.  I’m tired of listening to myself, and I would be tired of listening to me if I were you.  Everyone in my house thinks I’m a little wound up.  Don’t read this unless you have nothing better to do.  (I think I’m experiencing false labor for authors).  

My book will be available in stores on March 29 and I am hyper-focusing on that date as I have not obsessed on a date since the labor and delivery of my sons.  March 29 will come and go without much notice for the rest of the world, as it spins through spring break and on to Easter.  Only for me, does everything come to a screeching halt on March 29.  Life as I know it will cease. 

On March 29.

When I was hyper-focusing on the due date of my children, I imagined life as a mother.  I expected fulfillment of dreams and transcendence into a new level of existence.  I sewed crib bumpers, laundered onesies in Dreft, and debated cloth versus disposable.  As it turns out, actual motherhood is less about crib bumpers and more about being The Person who makes sure a fragile infant lives and thrives.  Once they were born it was like wearing a shock collar as a constant reminder of their utter dependence, although I never needed a jolt of electricity to remind me.  Once they were born, it was as if some of my vital organs left to live outside of my body.  You don’t forget where you left your heart and lungs.      

I suspect that life after publication will be less about published bliss and more about dealing with the new reality that part of my imagination has begun living outside of my head.  The characters and setting created in my mind will take published form and, although Harper Collins will do their part, the book’s survival will be up to me.  A book lives as long as it is being read and my job is to make sure that readers know it exists.  I’ll be busy doing all I can do to ensure the survival of my baby fiction.  And I won’t need a shock collar to remember where I left my imagination.

Any life changing dates in your future?

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My Author Photo

Taking a picture of myself that is worthy of a book cover is nearly impossible.  The only other process that comes close to requiring perfect sync of so many variables is the miracle of conception.  Yet the world is full of author photos, and agent and editor both neeeded mine yesterday.  On a day when hair, weight, and attitude were momentarily aligned, I called husband and invited him to lunch at the arboretum.  We took 200 pictures.  Upon review, not one was a keeper.  In case we were being too picky, I sent a batch to my good friend for her honest advice.  She said, “Do you have any shots that look like you?”  

We tried again and again, always with the same results.  We took turns making a case for improbable shots where half of my face was in shadow, for instance.  Under pressure, I sent a selection of the best to my agent.  “Do you have any shots that look warm and inviting?” she asked.

We sought the expert skills of a fashion photographer we know, and although his pictures were museum quality, he could do only so much with the subject (me).  On a photo shoot, overcome with the pressure to look warm and inviting, to be a face that sells books and still look like myself, and wondering what any of this had to do with writing, I sat on a picnic table and cried.  Those are the very worst pictures of all.

Then, one evening, husband had an idea.  “Let’s just think of this as practise,” he said.  We took our wineglasses onto the deck and, in the waning light of a summer evening, took pictures until it grew dark.  This time, we got an angle that seemed to work.  The only problem was the background:  two wineglasses in plain view and a blue mini-van emerging from my left temporal lobe.    

Time was running out.  Two more sessions and absolutely no good shots later, my editor requested a picture.  ASAP.  I pulled out the practise shot and turned on the photo editing tools.  I cropped as close as I could to take out the wineglasses, and painted green foliage over everything that didn’t belong in an author photo.  Then I braced myself and hit send.    

My editor wrote, “Do you have any shots where you look less startled?”  

I envy photogenic authors who do what comes naturally and get a great photo in one session.  I sent her my other shots and she opted for startled.

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Filed under Agent, Cindy Jones, Editor, First Reader (aka Husband), My Jane Austen Summer, The business of writing...

My Book Tour

My Ten-City Book Tour

My book launches exactly nine weeks from today and the first question people ask is, are you going to do a book tour?  The answer is: I did it last weekend.  My book tour consisted of transporting high school textbooks from the dining room to teenager bedrooms so that extended family could celebrate a birthday dinner around an actual table.  Turns out, ten city book tours only happen to celebrity authors and fictional protagonists.  According to my publicist, appearances do not sell books.  According to Guerilla Marketing for Writers, the average number of books sold at a book signing is…four. 

Reader, I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.  I thought once you signed a contract with a publisher you proceeded to the next level where things like grocery shopping, bill paying, and tooth flossing were outsourced.  I thought my staff would hand me a boarding pass and point me to New York City and beyond.   With no experience, no established audience, and no budget, what’s a debut author to do?   

The challenge:  Develop a unique book promotion plan that communicates the appeal of My Jane Austen Summer to readers throughout the world.  The plan’s format and design are limited only by the designer’s creativity.  Resources available:  computer, materials found in the home, and imagination.  Deadline:  February 15.  If you are successful, your book lives.  If not, leave quietly.  

Nobody told me I would have to use my imagination to solve problems!     

Time is running out, but don’t worry.  The same gray matter that brought My Jane Austen Summer into the world is working around the clock to solve The Challenge and keep the book from an early demise.  Come back on February 15 when The Solution will be revealed.  Although the plan is still under construction, rest assured it will require no hotel reservations, boarding passes, or invasive TSA pat-downs.

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The Scoop on Author Blurbs

Author Will Smile For Blurbs

Here’s the scoop on author blurbs:  start early.  Obtaining endorsements for a book is an author job they don’t tell you about in Writing 101.  When my ARCs came in, (Advanced Reader Copies made from uncorrected proofs), my editor asked me for names of authors to contact for blurbs. 

Who, me?

The second thing I will say about soliciting blurbs is you can’t start too early.  By the time the ARCs were ready, there was just over a month for authors to read my book and write a blurb in order to meet my publisher’s deadline.  Of all the authors I queried, those with whom I had some kind of connection agreed to try to accommodate my request.  Those who generously provided their endorsement–and I love them–were able to do so because they squeezed my request into their already crushing workload of writing, promotion, and let’s not forget–holiday chaos.  Soliciting author blurbs five years before your book’s publication is not too early.  I sent Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, an email in 2006, asking if she’d be willing to read my book.   

Karen Joy Fowler.  Right. 

She was busy at the time.  But she  remembered me two years later when we met at Squaw Valley Writers’ Conference.  And she was still busy.  But three years after the conference, when I resurfaced with a publishing contract, she found an opening in her schedule.   

Take away point:  Start early.

Although no one has asked me for a blurb, I’m practicing just in case.  Here’s how I would blurb some of the books I’ve read lately:

  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  I couldn’t put it down.
  • The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent.  The most beautifully written book I’ve ever read.  And I couldn’t put it down.  
  • Nocturne by Syrie James.  Fantastic escape:  four days in a snowstorm with a vampire who reminded me of Mr. Darcy.  I didn’t want to come home!  
  •  Mamalita by Jessica O’Dwyer.  Now I know how it feels when a book reaches out and blesses the reader.  The ending was exquisite.  
  • Friday Mornings at Nine by Marilyn Brant.  Delicious vicarious adventure!  I’ll never meet friends for coffee without remembering this story.  
  • Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  I love this book!  Engaging characters, compelling story, and a trip to India.                            
  • Murder at Mansfield Park by Lynn Shepherd.  My favorite characters return to the page in an engaging mystery.  Jane lives!  
  • Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.  Facinating reading adventure: to be a fly on the wall at Cleopatra’s house.       
  • The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore.  This engaging literary fiction taught me how much more innocence one has to lose when coming of age post 9/11.    
  •  

You, too, can blurb books!  What have you read lately that deserves your endorsement?  Leave your blurb in the comment section.

  To read the blurbs for My Jane Austen Summer, click here.

  

  

 

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Husbands Allowed in My Book Club

My Book Club Gathered Around Amy Bourret (center, seated)

My book club includes husbands.  Which means we don’t serve quiche at our meetings or read angsty books by writers like Hemingway or Franzen.  We read gnarly non-fiction every other month and during fiction months we brace ourselves for discussion hijackers who take the first exit possible into business or politics.  Short novels are good.  Novels with a film in current release are better.  Imagine my concern when Amy Bourret, author of Mothers and Other Liars agreed to visit My Book Club.  What was I thinking?   The very suggestion of the nurture/nature debate would send half of our group on a terminal field trip to the beer cooler.  An email went out to all husbands two months prior to her scheduled appearance:  You Must Read This Novel

They all said they would.  

Not only is Amy Bourret a wonderful writer with a compelling book, she was a partner with a national law firm in a previous life.  So while she spoke about character and plot, she also shared information about contracts and sales.  She explained her deal with Target Stores (Amy is a Target Breakout Author).  She answered questions about the ins and outs of working with agents, editors, and St. Martin’s Press.  By the time she got around to nuances between hardcover and trade paper they were eating out of her hand.  One husband said it was the best book club, ever.        

We could ditch the husbands and read whatever we want.  But.  We love them.  And now we have to brace ourselves for next month’s testosterone special: Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward.       

To learn more about Amy Bourret and her debut novel, Mothers and Other Liars, click here.

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How I Found My Literary Agent

First Reader/Husband on Boat (Filed under: Important Writing Relationships)

 Five years ago, I listened with 500 unpublished writers in a huge hotel ballroom as a panel of literary agents introduced themselves to the Writer’s League of Texas.  We were there because we all wanted one thing:  a literary agent.  But who among us had what it took to be signed by one of these?  Even newbies understood the supply side of this dynamic.  But I wasn’t a newbie anymore.  I’d been around long enough to ditch my first novel in a drawer along with a pile of rejection: thankful agents stepping aside so that other agents who will feel differently about my manuscript can wish me all the best with my writing.     

 Agent representation had begun to seem like an impossible dream.

 In the hotel ballroom, the last agent stood to speak.  As she introduced herself, she carefully placed her authors’ books upright on the table in front of her.  Her manner reminded me why I was there: because I love books.  I read books and write books and would live in books if I could.  I wanted to be one of her books.  She looked into 500 pairs of eyes and told us slowly and clearly what she was looking for:  a compelling narrative voice.  During the happy hour I stood in line to pitch my novel to this agent.  I’d practiced my pitch on fellow writers, in front of the mirror, and in my head.  It was late and she was tired.  She accepted a glass of wine from an enterprising fellow pitcher, and turned to me.  She listened carefully to my pitch then looked at me apologetically.  The room was very noisy and she had to lean in to tell me—she’d run out of business cards.  But she wanted to see ten pages when the book was ready. 

 I did not go straight home and send her 10 pages.  Instead, I resolved to do what published friends, teachers, agents, and people paid to give writing advice had been telling me to do for five years, none of which is a secret, all of which required effort outside of my comfort zone, and felt a lot like doing sit-ups and eating right.  First, I finished my novel.  Then I researched the market, honed my query package, and polished the compelling narrative voice until it said, “one of us has to go.”  Almost two years had passed.  I sent my materials to the agent I’d met in the hotel ballroom, as well as nine other agents. 

 The first rejection came within two minutes of my email submission.  Three more rejections came later.  But that was all the rejection it got.  Three agents never responded, and three agents asked to see the whole book.  Two of those offered representation, one being the agent from the conference.  I signed with her. 

 This is not to be confused with happily-ever-after or the end of the story, just a really good day in my writing life.

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Subtitles and Surprises

Licensed to Drive

The first time I saw my book in the Harper Collins online catalogue (which happens surprisingly early in the publishing process) was like driving down the street and seeing one of my sons, driving their own car.  I struggled to place the grown-up novel I’d last seen in a three-ring binder on the shelf near my desk.  

What are you doing here

I beheld my own creation, out in the world–no longer accessible for me to correct, revise, or completely rewrite entire sections.  But apparently managing just fine without me, nonetheless.  And then I noticed my novel sporting something I hadn’t created.  A subtitle.  Hmm.  Like discovering someone new in the passenger seat.  

MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER:  A SEASON IN MANSFIELD PARK 

I like it your new subtitle.  I really do.  I’m glad to meet it and so happy that you two got together, although I had nothing to do with it.  You make a perfect couple.

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Filed under Avon/Harper Collins, moment of clarity, My Jane Austen Summer, teenagers, The business of writing...