Tag Archives: Writing

Author Platform

Last week in my Thanksgiving post, I mentioned working on my author platform. Since I am often asked how I sell my books, I decided to write a post about my author platform and how I promote (or how I should promote) my books.

I love to write and enjoy creating a fictional story, but the rest of my job as an author is not easy, and I’m not good at it. My latest novel, The Fisherman’s Daughter went on sale four weeks ago, and at first, sales were good, but lately, they have dwindled. I know sales have fallen because I have not been promoting the novel as I should. My excuse, and it is not a good one, is I’ve been exhausted. As we neared the end of the season at our lodge, I only had enough energy to work with nothing left over for writing or promotion.

According to my publisher, I should dedicate at least two hours a day to social media. Lately, I have fallen one hour and fifty-five minutes per day short of this goal. I also have not “advertised” my book in any other way. In today’s market where thousands of books are published every day, it is not easy for an author to find readers. There are, however, scores of “promoters” ready to tweet about an author’s book to the masses for a fee (and sometimes a hefty fee). I have fallen for some of these offers, and they did not work. If an author wants to find readers, she must reach out and approach them one at a time.

An author’s platform is a way an author attracts dedicated readers. A platform consists of a website, a blog with frequent posts, and a newsletter where an author can contact a prospective reader through his or her e-mail inbox. The platform also includes social media, such as an author’s page on Facebook, a presence on LinkedIn, an active Twitter account, a Pinterest board, Instagram, Google +, Goodreads, etc. The platform also includes non-internet activity such as book signings, speaking engagements, and other appearances where an author talks about her books.  The platform can also include many other things, but this gives you an idea of the basics.

I have a website and a blog, and I post frequently, I also have an e-mail newsletter. I am on social media, but I do not post as often as I should, and I am not active in the social media groups I have joined. I don’t usually have two hours a day to spend on social media, and if I did spend that much time on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I’d never find time to write.

Unfortunately, while the number of brick and mortar bookstores decreases, the number of books being published increases. More than one million books are published in the U.S. each year, and it is impossible for a new author to get her book into a store without the backing of a large publishing agency. Most authors I know are not great at promoting themselves or their work. We want to write not sell.

I will keep working on my author platform, and maybe I’ll get better at self-promotion. My publisher is currently encouraging me to work on a webinar about how I became a published author. It’s a fun project, and I’m excited to work on it. I’m not sure how I will use it to sell books, but I’ll let you know when it’s done, so you can take a look at it and tell me what you think.

I’ll continue my salmon posts next week when I write about king salmon biology. My fish posts have been popular, and I love the opportunity to dive into each species and learn as much as I can about it. Learning about fish is so much more fun than selling books!

Please sign up for my newsletter so I can put another brick on my author platform!

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The Title

The working title for my next novel is The Fisherman’s Daughter. Like my other two novels, it is a murder mystery. A friend suggested that a more descriptive title would be Who Murdered the Fisherman’s Daughter? What do you think? The cover of the book will picture a teenage girl in an aluminum fishing boat looking terrified as huge wave crests over the bow of her skiff. I think the cover image by itself will suggest the young girl is in peril. Is the title “Who Murdered the Fisherman’s Daughter?” necessary to let potential readers know this book is a murder mystery, or would the cover be enough to signal this is a suspense/mystery novel? Please let me know your opinion. I haven’t had much luck getting folks to leave comments on my blog posts, so if you’d rather e-mail me, you can send an e-mail to robin@robinbarefield.com. I would be grateful to hear what you think!

This novel, like my previous novel, Murder Over Kodiak, is set on Kodiak Island, Alaska. It begins on the Fourth of July weekend, but most of the action happens during November and December when the crazy Kodiak weather bounces from rain and wind to ice to snow and back to rain again. I like to say there is no such thing as good weather in the winter on Kodiak. It is either clear and very cold, or it’s stormy and warm, and I’ve used our wild winter weather as a backdrop for this novel.

The story I tell in this book is about a serial killer preying on women and girls on the island. A serial killer on an island of only 14,000 people should be easy to apprehend, but this killer is smart and resourceful and doesn’t leave evidence at the scenes. One woman’s body is tossed in the ocean, washing away any trace evidence. A girl’s body is found in a heavy rain storm, any forensic evidence destroyed by the downpour. Another woman’s body is found in a park during a heavy snowstorm, the tracks leading to the body dump covered by the falling snow. Another body is tossed into a public garbage dumpster, contaminated with fingerprints and debris. What about the fisherman’s daughter? By the time she is found, she has been reduced to skeletal remains.

My first two novels were told by Jane, the protagonist in those stories. Jane will also be in this novel, but she is not the main character, and in this novel, I have several viewpoint characters. Sergeant Dan Patterson with the Alaska State Troopers and FBI Special Agent Nick Morgan are the two main characters in the book, but Kodiak Police Detective Maureen Horner also plays an important role. A few of the scenes are told from the viewpoint of a victim, and toward the end of the book, we get a look inside the killer’s head. I have read that writing a story from multiple viewpoints is not easy, but I’ve enjoyed many books told from the viewpoints of two or more characters, and it seemed to me as if it would be easier to tell a story through the eyes of multiple characters instead of through the eyes of just one character. I now know writing multiple viewpoints is not easy, or at least it was not easy tackling my first multiple-viewpoint story. I will be curious to hear how my editor thinks I handled the challenge, and I know there will be some rewrites.

Over the next few weeks, I will post some excerpts from my novel. Don’t hesitate to let me know what you think or to ask me questions. I would love your input!

A couple of weeks ago, I offered a free coupon for an e-book of Murder Over Kodiak, and not many people took me up on the offer. If you are interested in a coupon, drop me an e-mail. The offer will be ending soon. To take advantage of the offer, you will be asked to register for a website run by my publisher. There is no catch; sign up and get your free novel!

Speaking of free, if you haven’t already signed up for my free Mystery Newsletter, now is the time to do it. This month’s newsletter is about a bizarre missing person’s story and a tragic mix-up by the Alaska State Troopers.

Mystery Newsletter

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Welcome 2017!

Happy New Year, and welcome 2017! I’ll admit I am sad another year has flown by so quickly. Not everything about 2016 was great, but as I reflect on the year, the good times outweighed the bad. For me, the saddest events of 2016 were the sudden death of my oldest brother and the deaths of three friends. I loved the time I spent with my family in in Kansas in May, though, and I enjoyed seeing high school classmates at my reunion. We had great summer and fall seasons at our lodge, and our yard has been full of deer the past several weeks.

A few years ago, I began making New Year’s resolutions. I had always considered resolutions a joke, like a diet that only lasts two days. I never thought I’d feel bound to a resolution, but to my surprise, I have taken my resolutions seriously, and they are in the back of my mind all year as I struggle to fulfill them. I am not great at following through with resolutions to embrace healthier habits, but I do now exercise an hour a day, and I wear a Fitbit to keep myself honest. I never make a resolution to go on a diet because just the thought of a diet makes me hungry. The resolutions that have worked best for me are those related to writing.

At the start of 2016, I resolved to finish the rough draft of my next novel and the rough draft of my wildlife book by the end of 2016. I remember announcing this resolution and then laughing because I doubted I would come close to achieving either one of those goals. I am proud and amazed, though, to say I almost did it!! I’m not quite done with the wildlife book, but I will finish it in a week or two. I finished the rough draft of my novel in October and am now busy editing it. I know I would never have pushed myself so hard on either manuscript if I hadn’t made that crazy New Year’s resolution on January 1st, 2016.

I’ve given this year’s resolution a great deal of thought. I have several projects in the works, but I don’t want to set impossible goals for myself. I think goals should be lofty but within reach. Here’s what I came up with for a resolution. I want to finish editing the manuscript of my next novel and send it out to an editor by June. I don’t believe I can have the wildlife book ready to send to an editor before the end of 2017, but I want to send it out sometime next winter. I also want to finish the manuscript of my fourth novel by the end of 2017, and since I haven’t even written an outline for this novel yet, this may be a tough goal to reach. I would also like to work with Marcia on the cookbook we are writing and have the rough draft of it done sometime next winter. Finally, I hope to compile my Mystery Newsletters into a book and self-publish that. The e-book of my Mystery Newsletters will be available for free for my newsletter subscribers.

Whew! All those goals sound like a great deal of work, and I’ll let you know next year what I accomplished and what I didn’t. Writing a weekly blog post and a monthly newsletter plus doing my day job takes most of my time, but I’m becoming a faster writer and am getting better at multi-tasking, so I am hopeful and excited. At least I won’t be bored!

None of us can see what the future holds for us, but I wish you all a happy, healthy, successful 2017. Take a minute to tell me some of your resolutions!

If you haven’t signed up for my Mystery Newsletter yet, you can check out my latest edition here. If you want to sign up, you can either click on the sign-up button in the upper left-hand corner of the newsletter or sign up at http://robinbarefield.com.

The next few weeks, I will again concentrate on wildlife profiles, beginning with the fascinating, beautiful, fierce Arctic Tern.

The Fisherman’s Daughter

The Fisherman’s Daughter is the working title for my latest novel. I’ve plotted the story, but I still have some questions and issues to work out along the way. Authors debate over whether or not to use an outline for a novel. Some write outlines that are hundreds of pages long while others just start writing with only a whisper of a story idea in their minds. I fall somewhere in between those two extremes. If I don’t have an outline, I get sidetracked and lose sight of where I’m headed. I think a mystery novel needs to be tightly written, and the reader will not be happy if the author leads him down too many blind alleys. On the other hand, an in-depth outline can lead to a plot that is rigid, making it appear contrived. It is a cliché for an author to say that the characters take on lives of their own, but there is some truth to that statement. I’ll often be in the middle of writing a prepared scene when it occurs to me that a character would never do what I’m about to have her do. At those times, a different but usually much better action occurs to me, and that action sometimes sends the story in an unexpected direction. I don’t want to plot my books so rigidly that I miss those “Aha!” moments because they always make my story better.

Writing a mystery is a challenge because the murderer cannot be the obvious choice, but when he is revealed, he must be the logical choice. I want the reader to say, “Of course, why didn’t I consider him? I should have known.” That’s not an easy trick to pull off since I know who the killer is from the very beginning of the book. The highest compliment a reader can pay me is when he says, “I was so shocked she was the killer. I never suspected her.” The twists and turns that keep the reader guessing are the meat of the novel, and I try not to outline those areas too tightly because the best plot twists often happen when I write myself into a corner.

The Fisherman’s Daughter takes place on Kodiak Island and starts out with a teenage girl in an aluminum fishing boat (a skiff) heading back to her family’s commercial fishing site after she attends a Fourth of July party. Here is an excerpt from the prologue.

 “No!” She slammed the shifter into neutral and twisted the key – nothing. She tried again, but no luck. She turned the key several more times in rapid succession. The boat turned sideways in the heavy seas, waves rocking it violently from side to side. Deanna’s heart hammered in her chest.

 “Calm down, calm down, calm down! You’ve got this, Deanna Kerr. You are seventeen years old, not a little kid. Think!” She unhinged the hood from the outboard, her hands shaking so badly she could barely hang onto it. She set the hood on the deck and stared at the shiny metal cowling. Panic started to overtake her. She had no idea how to fix this type of engine.

 “Think!” She commanded herself. The engine isn’t getting fuel. It must be a fuel filter problem. A wave poured over the side of the boat, filling it with several inches of water. She fumbled for the bailer and started scooping water out of the boat, but then another wave hit and more water poured into it. She had to get the engine started and get out of the trough of the waves. She realized that her parents had forgotten to give her a handheld VHF radio to carry in the skiff. She should have remembered to ask for one. If she had a radio, she could call for help.

 Another wave crashed over the side of the skiff, and Deanna reached for the bulb on the gas line and pumped furiously. She turned the key. The engine coughed and died. “Please God, make it work!” She tried again but no luck. A wave struck her broadside and nearly knocked her out of the boat. She fell on her knees in the water in the bottom of the skiff. She looked for water in the fuel filter, but she didn’t see any. Maybe the filter was plugged by something else. She opened the tool box that was secured to the inside of the hull. Her hands trembled as she grabbed the filter wrench and fought to loosen the filter from the fuel line. Maybe she could just bypass the filter. She tried to think. What would her dad do? She wasn’t sure how to bypass the filter. She pulled out the old filter and studied it, but it looked fine. She had no time to think. She grabbed another filter and secured the housing. As she stood, a wave hit and knocked her back into the bottom of the skiff. She chanced a glance at the angry ocean. Conditions were worsening at an alarming rate. Around her, whitecaps piled one on top another, but even more ominous was the black ocean toward the north, toward her home.

Did I have to use my imagination to write this scene? Not really. Unfortunately, I’ve been there and done that. It was not at all difficult to imagine how terrified Deanna would be in that situation, but this is nothing compared to what happens to her next! I’ll post more excerpts as the novel progresses.

Don’t forget to sign up for my Mystery Newsletter. I’ll send you a copy of the latest edition about Alaska’s most notorious serial killer.




Writing Projects

Last week I posted that my novel, Murder Over Kodiak, is being re-released, and this week I’ll tell you about my current writing projects. As I mentioned recently, I never have enough time to get everything done, and sometimes it seems as if I never complete anything. I am guilty of tackling massive projects with no end in sight, and then I start something new before I complete the first project. I am presently working on a technical non-fiction book, a cookbook, and a novel. I also write this weekly blog and a monthly newsletter. I’m not a patient person, so I would love to finish all these projects by next week. I know, though, that writing a book is a long, slow process, and once I finish the rough draft, it needs to be edited, re-edited, and edited several more times again.

Six years ago, I started writing about the animals of Kodiak Island, species by species. My original plan was to post the information on our Munsey’s Bear Camp website, and I have been doing that, but it occurred to me a few years ago that if I put all this information together, I would have an interesting guide book. Since then, I’ve been compiling a rough draft along with photos. I find researching this book interesting, but writing it is hard work, and it moves forward at a snail’s pace. Each fact must be attributed to its source, and too often, the sources do not agree with each other, so I must research other sources until I’m satisfied I’ve reported the best information available. I plan to cover the mammals endemic to Kodiak Island. These are the Kodiak Bear, the little brown bat, the short-tailed weasel, the tundra vole, the red fox, and the river otter. I’ll also detail some of the introduced mammals, including Sitka black-tailed deer and mountain goats, and I’ll cover marine mammals, including harbor seals, Stellar Sea Lions, sea otters, porpoises, and whales. In addition to mammals, I want to include a few birds, such as bald eagles, puffins, oyster catchers, and arctic terns. I still have quite a bit of work to do on the book, but it is beginning to take shape. Many of my blog posts about wildlife are a product of the research I’ve done for this book.

My second book project is a cookbook that my friend, Marcia, and I are working on with Mike’s mother, Pat, and Mary Schwarzhans. Marcia was the cook at our lodge for many years, and Mary is our current cook. Marcia is the driving force behind this project, and I feel as if she has done most of the work on it so far. Little by little this project is also taking shape, though. Marcia has a vision of what the book should look like, and when she talks about it, I get excited. In addition to being a cookbook, it will tell the history of Munsey’s Bear Camp with short stories, and we also hope to give the reader a feel for what it has been like over the years to cook at a remote Alaskan Lodge. Our working title for this book is Tales from the Kitchen at Munsey’s Bear Camp.

Book number three is my next novel. I love writing fiction, and this is my project of choice. To write fiction, though, I need a large chunk of uninterrupted time, so I can let my imagination roam, and those chunks of time are difficult to find. I hope to spend more time on this project over the next few months. Next week, I’ll post an excerpt from the prolog of this novel. Its working title is The Fisherman’s Daughter, and as with my last novel, it will be set on Kodiak Island.

My blog is fun, but it takes time. So far, I’ve had plenty of ideas for posts, but I worry that won’t last. My Mystery Newsletter profiles a different Alaskan crime or criminal each month, and it is a great deal of work, but I find it fascinating as well as disconcerting and creepy. I’ll write more about my newsletter in two weeks.

Speaking of my newsletter, I just sent out the latest edition. If you are signed up for it but didn’t receive it, check your spam filter. If you would like to receive my newsletter, go here to sign up, and I’ll send it to you. As always, let me know if there is anything about Kodiak Island you’d like me to write about on my blog, and I’ll do my best to fulfill your request!