Category Archives: Blog Challenge 2015

Blog Challenge blah blahblah Finout more here at Laura Orsini’s page

TO THE FUTURE

DAY 35  What are you going to do to keep the blogging momentum going? What plans do you have to continue your connection with other Author Blog Challenge participants and the new readers you’ve generated for your blog?

Looking at my posts from the first Author Blog Challenge in 2012, I feel like I was in kindergarten then, and now I’m at least in high school!  I’ve learned a lot since then, but I have a long stretch ahead of me, to get where I want to be. My decision to ‘Go Pro’ has made a difference, and I will continue to post an occasional entry about my ‘schooling’.

I want to keep the enthusiasm for blogging  that I feel now, and transfer that enthusiasm to writing my next book, Helping The Birth Mother You Know.

Re: my website. I want to transfer (or link) the blog pieces from my old wordpress site to my website. Re: Twitter. I want to look at the twitter contacts that came from the ABC. I want to see if there are people following me on Twitter that I need to connect with, and decide how to do it.

I’ll need some help for that. And I’ll not be afraid to ask until I get it!New Picture (1)

Thanks for a great experience, Laura and Marcie! See you soon!

 

CONFIDENCE BUILDER

DAY 34 What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?

I have learned a lot about my writer-self from participating in this blog. I’ve learned that I CAN hang in there for five weeks of (mostly) daily posts. I say ‘mostly’ because I’ve had to reverse-post on occasion when Life intervened, but I didn’t get discouraged by that and I didn’t drop out.

I’ve learned some technical things of value: how to ‘insert media’ in a post, how to Google search for images, how to simultaneously post on FB and Twitter at the same time as my website. I still use Word for the first draft, which I’ve saved. Now that they are all posted on the website, I have to decide if I’ll keep the word docx.

Not surprisingly, I’ve confirmed to myself that I write in spurts. I’ll find myself in the groove and want to keep on writing beyond the post-of-the-day and tomorrow. And I’ll occasionally lose momentum and need to drive myself to complete a post by the deadline.

I’ve experimented with ‘best time to write’ – is it early morning? Is it after the house is still when I’m the only one awake?  (Answer: Either way works, and I’m OK with that!)

I tried to do a shorter version (four weeks, instead of five) of Author Blog Challenge in 2012. I didn’t complete it; I didn’t make it for two weeks! Now I’ve confirmed to myself that I CAN make it through a  blog challenge.

What made the difference? When I look back to 2012, I simply wasn’t ready! I had a wordpress presence, but I wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t understand technically how to accomplish what I imagined. I made some national and international friends from that experience, people I still follow on FB.

Having my own website has made a difference; having published my first book made a difference, too. I noticed that, as the wind-down came for ABC, I’ve been putting other things off till it’s finished. I want to keep the enthusiasm for writing that I feel now, and transpose it to enthusiasm for writing my next book.

So, to answer the questions of the prompt: What has been the best part of participating in this ABC? Increase in self-knowledge. What suggestions do I have for improving the next ABC? Maybe add another week?

MY NEXT BOOK

The Day 33 prompt is: What is/will be the subject of your next book?

My next book is Helping the Birth Mother You Know. It’s my second book about adoption, and is written for birth mothers, their families, and friends.

When I first started working in adoption in 1979, I went to the Tucson Public Library and looked in their card catalogue for books on adoption. There were three. Today, a quick inspection of Tucson Public Library’s online books that reference adoption yields over 475. After subtracting the ones on animal adoptions (dogs and cats to rabbits, bats, penguins and parrots), adoption of governmental regulations and adoption of business practices in troubled times, I estimate there are 380 books on adoption.

Many are picture books for preschool children explaining adoption in simple language. Some of these are specifically written for the child adopted from another country and a few address transracial adoption, usually from the foster care system.

There are fictional YA books that have adoptee protagonists who search for birth parents. Most of these books seem, from the synopses, to be warnings that a search could have horrible endings!

Adoption is based on loss, and this can’t be ignored when writing for or to birth parents. How one handles grief – both immediate and long term – will be an important a part of the book. The adoptive parents (in most cases) have lost the ability to have a child. The adoptee loses the connection to the original family and is without genetic role models. And birth parents, their losses seem to me to be the hardest.

Some of the newer books are written from the perspective of the birth parent.  Lorraine Dusky’s gripping books:  Birthmark (published in 1979, but I didn’t find it until much later), and Hole in My Heart, published earlier this year, tell the story as only a birth mother can.  Other birth mother memoirs include Southern Arizona author Denise Roessle (Second Chance Mother) and actress Kate Mulgrew’s Born with Teeth, both memoirs that I’ve read this year.

Ann Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, written in 2006, quickly became a classic. The book and movie Philomena brought the plight of birth mothers to the screen and thus, to a larger audience.

I’m eager to get busy writing this new book, Helping the Birth Mother You Know.

 

 

THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE: JUST DO IT!

Day 29 . October 11 – ( I am using the prompt for Day 31 that came after I’d written and posted Day 31 without a prompt. NOW I am using the prompt for day 31 to fill in for the one I’d missed on day 29. Confused?)

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received about the publishing process and/or what advice would you offer to a first-time author? 

I can still hear the Cuban-accented voice of Eduardo Cervino: “Just do it!”

I had hit a wall of fear. I was about to drop out on my dream to publish my book in time for the Tucson Festival of Books. The writing was done, the editing was done; I had even talked to a local printer and I was ready to self-publish.  I felt overwhelmed.

I went to a book signing event at Dog Eared Pages, a community bookstore that spotlights local authors, where Eduardo and his wife Lesley Sudders were selling and signing books. “How much time is left? Three weeks? Plenty of time! You can use CreateSpace; it’s how we publish our books. Come over to see us and we will help you.” He handed me their business card with their email address.

I knew Eduardo and Lesley from several of the meetups.  I was surprised to find that they lived less than a mile from me, and even more surprised when they agreed to meet me; ‘Can you come over after dinner, about 7?” They were night owls, too! A good omen!

At this point I was hopeful I could make my deadline and have a box of books in time for the event in Tucson. Lesley began reviewing my manuscript, showing me how to format so the chapters all started on a right side page. Eduardo went to work on the cover. Over the weekend he had taken pictures of some twins in a twin-stroller, with the idea of putting them on the cover of my book! He proudly showed off the pictures as he told me: “You want people who want to adopt to buy your book! These are cute kids. They are perfect. . . Or if you have another idea, we can work with that.”

Although my target audience included prospective adopters, it also included birth mothers and birth fathers and adult adoptees and adoption professionals who might recommend the book to their clients. I opted for a neutral cover design based on the logo on my business card. Eduardo went to work on photoshop, working the magic of fitting the logo onto the book. By the next day, he had a cover roughed out that met my expectations.

On the back of the cover, we used my head shot that had been taken for this purpose by a photographer at the Holiday Book Event (sponsored by Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing meetup) in December, 2014.  We three worked together writing the copy for the back of the book, leaving space for the ISBN, and voila! The cover was ready.

I had followed Lesley’s directions to open an account with CreateSpace, and I crossed my fingers as we hit ‘send’. Less than 24 hours later I had a confirmation that the book was acceptable for printing. I ordered five DRAFT copies of the book to preview. Lesley helped me make a few changes, and I met the deadline!

Now, when I meet a new author who’s poised on that bubble of fear, I can say with confidence:  “JUST DO IT!”

BEWARE: IT’S A TRICK, NOT A TREAT!

Day 31. No prompt, so I will make up my own.

I began to write about books that are calling me to read them; books I’ve set aside during this flurry of daily posts, but now I’ve stumbled onto something that supersedes that subject. I’m writing because I have ordered two books now, from Kindle, that are not what I thought I ordered.

Have you heard of aBookaDay? Evidently it’s a new Kindle product, published under the title of a particular book, but it is not THE book. It is a shortened version: a digital Cliff’s Notes so you don’t have to read the book. The first page has a Note to Readers: This is a Summary & Analysis of Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. You are encouraged to buy the full version. It didn’t cost anything, because it’s offered as a ‘library loan’.

I went back to the Kindle store to order the actual book by Atul Gawande, but I didn’t see it from my Kindle’s array of books to order. I did order from the thumbnail a copy of The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson. It appeared to be the same black-and-white cover that I’d seen of the book on the Amazon website. There was also a version in the same beige-colored aBookaDay format which I knew I wasn’t going to order. I should have known something was up when it was also a no-charge for book loan.

Tonight I opened my copy of The Devil and the White City. It’s a summary and analysis by the same ‘author’:  aBookaDay. I feel cheated!

(When I googled aBookaDay, I found a listing as though there is an author named aBookaDay, who has ‘written’ a lot of damn sham books. They are everywhere, even on GoodReads.)

HOLLYWOOD CALLING

DAY 30. If a Hollywood agent were to come knocking on your door with an offer to turn your book into a movie and told you that you could call all the shots, who would you have direct and star in it? 

Why, just last Tuesday I had a call from such an agent.

The son of the executive producer of the 1990s TV hit show Touched by an Angel is developing a new series for television. He wants to use adoption stories in the new version (Some of the most popular stories from Touched by an Angel were adoption stories, he assures me.) Someone gave him my book, Adoption: More Than By Chance, and he was impressed with the wide variety of stories – international adoption, older child adoption, infant adoption, step-parent adoption, interfamily adoption; the variety of characters from birth parents to adoptive parents and extended family members. He particularly mentioned reunion stories.

The agent was calling with some questions.  Do I have other stories about adoption that weren’t in the first book? Would I be interested in sending some material ‘on spec’ for consideration? He hinted that if things worked out, I might be hired as a script consultant, to ‘keep the characters honest.’

This producer is particularly interested in the issue of guilt, and how people adjust to living with guilt for decisions made long ago. That, say, a member of an infertile couple suspects earlier careless sexual experiences caused infertility, but suffers in silence rather than speak of it to a spouse. How, long term, people who start off feeling good about their choices but are guilted by society’s changing mores. He gave the example of a woman who was forced by her parents to relinquish a baby for adoption but now she feels she could have kept her child because  it’s acceptable to be a single parent, raising a baby with or without family support in this day and age.

I couldn’t sleep that night. What possibilities this might be! To explore transracial adoption – a family who doesn’t care about the ethnicity of the child but has no understanding of the issues the child will face in school. A family adopts a child from foster care believing ‘love is enough’ and finds out it’s really not enough. An adoptive mother  cannot sleep because her five year old cries herself to sleep every night longing for the missing parent that she’s never known.

Well, OK. This is only a fantasy; it didn’t happen. But look what could happen if given a chance!

 

Dissecting: Platform from Social Media

Day 28  – How are you using social media to promote your book? What aspect of social media would you like to learn more about? What are your next steps?

I fear I have conflated the terms “platform” and “social media.”  I wrote my last blog for ABC about what ‘platforms’ I’m using, but what is ‘social media’ if not different platforms? In my brain, the two are pretty close to the same thing.

To answer the direct questions above: I am using my website, facebook, twitter, and emails to promote my book. I would like to better understand how to utilize the interface of these. I know something about MailChimp, but I haven’t started using it yet.

Once the 35 day ABC blog ends (next Saturday, the 17th of October) I will continue on an episodic basis to notify my list of contacts of another blog piece on my website, when I’m speaking about or reading from my books, and when I publish something not related to adoption, for I have designs on writing more books that are not adoption related.

I have to admit that I am confused about how best to utilize the contacts on Twitter. Every day now, I open my email that’s linked to Twitter and discover 3 to 10 new followers. I’ve been told to maintain some contact or they will drop off. I’m not sure how to do this.

It is time to seek out potential publishers of my next book, Helping The Birth Mother You Know. My plan when I self-published Adoption: More Than By Chance, was to have a book that showcases my writing ability and to give validity to a publishing house. I want my second book to have a distribution track to adoption and counseling professionals, as well as directly to birth mothers; I believe this can be aided by having a publisher with a visibility in the mental health community.

I also have answered a couple of National Adoption Conferences when they publish a Call for Presentations. I haven’t been accepted to one yet, but I’m going to get there. How? One answer would be to sell more books, my greater goal.

The Importance of Platform

  1. What are the three most important things you are doing to grow your platform?

Although I believe I’ve made progress in the last year plus, I’m still learning how to grow my platform.

I finally hired someone to build my website, a task I’d sat on for six years. I should be able to do this myself, I reasoned. But I didn’t. I struggled to learn how to utilize the wordpress blog I’d set up in lieu of a full blown website. I knew of ways to drive traffic to my blog, but I didn’t really utilize the knowledge I had.

With the new website in place (www.BethKozan.com), I felt better prepared to enter the Author’s Blog Challenge of writing for 35 days in a row. Now that we’re on the last week of ABC, I’ve fallen behind due to Life’s intervening, but I’ll get caught up, perhaps today.

I started a Twitter account. I have only been ‘on Twitter’ for a few weeks now, and I am astounded at how quickly my contact list has grown. Retweets I’ve posted get retweeted from my site. The potential is mind-boggling!

My webdesigner called me ‘intrepid’ last week.

'I was wrong...you can teach an old dog new tricks.'

I asked, “Intrepid? How so?” “Because when I told you how to use the Publicize feature, you tried it. I tell other clients how to set this up and they don’t try.” With each new post that goes to our common site for posting, it automatically appears on Facebook and Twitter, and I got it the first time I tried!

Not only that but I’ve learned how to Add Media. This old dog is still learning!

 

NOVEMBER IS NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH

DAY 26 What would be the ideal NON-bookstore venue for selling your book? Why? What is your plan to reach out to such a venue to ask about having them carry your book?

Thank you for the prompt that inspired me to go for an activity during November, National Adoption Month.

Pima County (Tucson) has their Adoption in the Park event scheduled for November 7 this year. Their website announces the event:  Balloons

Over 1000 people attend the Adoption in the Park event. This will be the 15th year the event has taken place in Pima County. A collaboration of agencies including Adoption and Foster Care agencies, the Pima County Juvenile Court and the Department of Child Safety work together to provide a fun filled day for all. Ramadas are transformed into courtrooms. There is food, games and jumping castles. The favorite of the day is the cake walk. It’s a memorable and enjoyable day for all.

Maricopa County (Phoenix) has their National Adoption Day Event scheduled for November 21. The press is invited to the event which celebrates by Court finalization of adoptions.

Maricopa County has held a National Adoption Day event since the beginning – we have broken all records the past few years with the number of adoptions we complete on this day – We have games and activities for the children, live entertainment, food and beverages and a professional photographer to capture each adoptive family after their adoption hearing.

I will email both listed contacts for Tucson and Phoenix to see how I can help celebrate adoption with them.  I’ll be surprised if either will allow book sales, but at the very least I can walk the crowd and handout cards and book markers that tell people where they can order the book online.

And if neither works out, there’s always next year, and I will have more time to work on the event in 2016 when I can work on two books on adoption.

Beth Kozan

Author of Adoption: More Than By Chance

 

I KEEP BOOKS ON MY BOOKS

DAY 25 If your goal is to sell books, you must view your book as a business. In what ways do you treat your book as a business? Where could you improve? What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?

Yes, I ’keep books’ on my book writing business. Excel spreadsheets on my book records sales and exchanges with other authors made on the promise of reviews. I know how many were sold from my stash, and I have a list of people who’ve told me they bought it through Amazon.

Two other different spreadsheets record my book income, and expenses for my writing business. This means that I have an expenditure record since I retired from the world of working for someone else in 2008. I’m serious about my books as a business. I use “Author” as a descriptor. I haven’t had a year where I’ve broken even yet, but I can prove what it has cost me to keep this business!

I do this so that I can be serious about my writing in my head. Others may view their writing as a hobby, but I have always seen writing as a business. I set goals and plan for necessary fees for book marketing. It’s a slim budget, for now, but when business gets better, I’ve got the framework to expand.

The internet offers great opportunity to make connections, and encouraging other authors will pay off as my other books become real entities. I’ve recently started a twitter account, and my goal for this week is to revamp my LinkedIn profile. There’s always something more that I can learn!

When the Author Blog Challenge ends on October 17, I will have built a list of fans that I can send my continuing blog posts to. If you haven’t gone to my website and registered, please do so. Go to  Bethkozan.com. You’ll see the sign-up on the right.