Welcome to another exciting tour with Novel Publicity. Today we’re featuring author Mary Maddox on our writing and advice blog with some great advice about life, writing and social media!
In a world of constantly changing markets, readership and trends, we talk to Mary today on how she copes with constant change as an author.
Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of this post, it has some unique and super fun prizes including a photo essay book, gift card and signed books! There’s also a release week sale on, so grab your copy of Darkroom before the price goes up!
Social media can be hard to manage for some people, do you have any useful tips for how to use social media as an author?
MM: Social media can steal time from writing. I sink into inertia and lethargy as I scroll past endless political rants and cute animal pictures. My mind grows numb as my energy is sucked into the sinkhole that is Facebook.
Watch out. It can happen to you, too.
My biggest presence is on Facebook, so it’s the place where I’m apt to waste an hour reading, commenting, and sharing. My blog posts appear on Tumblr and I have boards devoted to my Daemon World novels on Pinterest, but mostly I browse those sites for fun. I haven’t found Twitter to be an effective medium for promotion—too many other authors are doing it—but I’ve connected with some nice people.
My best advice is to focus on your objective and avoid being distracted by posts or tweets that aren’t relevant to your task.
How much time to you devote to social media for your books each day (or week)?
On average, I probably average half an hour a day promoting my writing on social media. This doesn’t include the time I fritter away.
Many authors use platforms such as Facebook to escape when they suffer writer’s’ block. Do you ever do this, and have you found any creative ways to use social media to inspire your writing?
On Facebook I happened onto a link to a news article reporting experiments in which scientists transfused the blood of young mice into old mice to rejuvenate them. They got some positive results. The article inspired me to write “Catalyst,” a short story about a rich woman who buys the blood of young people to maintain her youth. (By the way, “Catalyst” is a free download for anyone who subscribes to my newsletter.)
Occasionally an image on Pinterest sparks an idea for something in a novel I’m writing, so I pin it to the board for that novel. Then other people pin stuff to the board, and sometimes their pins spark another idea.
Your blog Ancient Children, and website are most unique, and a little outside the box compared to other authors. From the staggered menu placement to the red on black color theme, can you tell us a bit about building your site? Who helped you, and how much work was it?
MM: I started Ancient Children in 2010. I never felt altogether satisfied with the site as my online home. So after changing the banner a couple of times, I decided to go with an author page, something with distinctive graphics to create a stronger brand. I came up with a tagline, “Writing that’s not afraid of the dark,” and hired Jamie Veron of Shatterboxx to design a page with links to Ancient Children and to my Facebook and Twitter pages.
The arrangement worked reasonably well for a couple of years. But when my second book came out, the author page needed to be redone to include the new title. In addition, my online platform was scattered. It would be more unified if the book pages and blog had the same URL as the author page. That meant building an entirely new site. I wanted to keep the page that Jamie designed as a doorway to the new site. At the time, though, she wasn’t available to make revisions. And while I can build simple WordPress sites, re-coding the page required skills I don’t have.
So I hired Smart Author Solutions. The designer chose a WordPress theme that allowed him to place Jamie’s page in the background. It functions as the homepage and frames every other page on the new site. I managed the Photoshop revisions to the homepage, and after the website was built, I uploaded the content and designed the individual pages. Later I rehired Smart Author Solutions to add Darkroom to the home page since it doesn’t have a standard NAV menu.
I’ll outgrow the site. It can’t accommodate drop-down sub menus, so every new item takes up space on the homepage. Eventually, I’ll have too many books to fit there and it will be time for a new design.
Recently I decided to mirror Ancient Children on wordpress.com to take advantage of its blogger network and search engine capabilities. Its URL there is marymaddoxblog.com. I’m keeping Ancient Children going because it’s an established blog with 200-400 hits per month. I built the new blog myself, but I’m not totally happy with it. Somewhere down the line I’ll change the theme and do some tweaking.
Rebuilding my web platform was a lot of work even with professional help. And it cost money. Professional design isn’t cheap. In the end, all marketing and promotion costs time or money. You have to spend one or the other.
Now that we’ve talked about your blog, we’d like to know if you read anyone else’s blog, and if you do, what’s your favorite right now?
MM: I enjoy browsing the wordpress.com reader for interesting blog posts. I’ve found numerous excellent book review sites, author sites, and personal blogs from all over the world. On Tumblr I follow blogs devoted to Supernatural and Grimm, a couple of my favorite TV shows.
I’m active on Triberr, where I enjoy reading posts by my tribe mates. Ricki Wilson has a blog called Indie Spotlight featuring new Indie releases. Carol Bodensteiner writes beautifully about her home state of Iowa. And Rachelle Ayala features new releases by other romance authors as well as herself. None of these authors writes books anything like mine, but I enjoy a wide range of genres.
My favorite blog by a fantasy writer is Stevanie Claibourne’s Someplace in the Air. Her novels are unpublished, but judging from the excerpts on the blog, they ought to be. It may be she’s taking the traditional route to publication.
I occasionally read Hugh Howey’s and Joe Konrath’s blogs. Both are highly successful writers and champions of indie publishing.
I also read blogs about publishing. Two of my favorites are The Passive Guy, an excellent compilation of posts from other blogs, and The Book Designer, which covers all aspects of publishing but especially the production of eBooks and physical books. If you’re doing your own book interior or cover, it’s a good place for learning how to avoid mistakes.
You have links to Facebook and Twitter social media links on your website. Is there a specific channel you’re more likely to be active on, and if so why?
MM: I’m on Facebook more than anywhere else because most of my friends are there.
Social media use ebbs and flows over all the platforms out there. Is there one that you feel is better for readers and authors to connect on, and if so, why?
MM: Twitter seems like the platform where authors are most accessible. I used to have conversations on Twitter. They tended to take place late at night while I lay in bed. Eventually, I would set my iPad on the night table and go to sleep, but it kept dinging when someone replied to my tweets. I was okay with this—I’m kind of a night owl— but my husband got sick of being kept awake. I offered to turn off Twitter notifications at bedtime, but that wasn’t enough for him. He refused to share the bed with my iPad. In the end, I gave up active tweeting to save my marriage.
Newsletters are one of many ways authors like to keep in touch with their readership. Can you tell us what subscribers can expect when they sign up for your newsletter, and how often they might hear from you?
MM: I try to write my subscribers monthly, but there isn’t a particular day each month when my newsletter goes out. Every couple of months I have a drawing or poll with some kind of prize, either a gift card or items related to my books. In February there was the Foster Prize Pack in honor of Lu’s parakeet in Daemon Seer. The winner received a parrot hat, parakeet socks, a Doors CD with Foster’s favorite song (“Light My Fire”), and an autographed copy of Daemon Seer.
Where do you go for social media and marketing advice? Know any great books or tips other authors might find useful?
MM: I’ve had the best results consulting with publicists. Rather than offering general advice, they analyze your situation in particular and offer ideas and advice. They’ll draw up marketing plans tailored to you. They can also carry out the plans, but if you can’t afford to hire them for that, you have a detailed outline for how to proceed. Since I know far less about marketing and promotion than they do, and I tend to be disorganized at this kind of task, it’s a great help to me.
Consulting with a publicist costs less than you might think. Publicists generally charge about $75 an hour, and you can gain a lot in two or three hours.
Several books have helped me at various stages of my indie journey, but the publishing landscape changes so fast that advice books quickly become out of date. It’s something to keep in mind while reading them. I’ve also wasted money books that were mostly fluff and taught me nothing new. One book that has stayed relevant for me is David Gaughan’s Let’s Get Visible.
We noticed on your website that you also do in-person events, what advice can you give new authors about doing in person events & do you enjoy them?
MM: I would advise authors, new or experienced, to read Your Roadmap to Successful Author Events by Pavarti K. Tyler and Mallory Rock. It’s a concise and practical guide on how to prepare for readings and other live events and bring them off smoothly and with style. Again, I’m not the most organized person when it comes to practical matters. This book helps me get things together.
At heart I’m a shy person. Performing in public isn’t enjoyable for me, but I taught for years at a university. I can’t tell you how I overcame my shyness. I just showed up and did the best I could.
Reading your work, like teaching, is a performance. Engaging your audience is crucial. At the beginning of my teaching career, I wrote lecture outlines that went on for page after tedious page. I spent many hours on them. Unfortunately they killed spontaneity in the classroom. If a student asked a question that didn’t follow the outline, my lecture fell apart. I realized eventually that, for me anyway, a more flexible approach worked better. I prepared by knowing the material and making a list of major points I wanted to cover. This approach gave the students (my audience) room to join the conversation.
If you interact with your audience—by answering questions after the reading or just chatting during a book signing—the event is likely to go better.
One last chance…If you were doing it all over again, would you change anything about how you published, got covers, and got the word out about your books?
MM: My biggest mistake was cheaping out at the beginning.
I spent $25 on the cover for my first book, Talion. A friend of mine is married to a graphic artist. He designed the cover that I asked for. It’s beautiful but altogether inappropriate for the novel. When I brought Talion to an alumni book signing at my college reunion, a woman marched up to the table and announced she wasn’t buying my book because she had no idea what it was about. I opened my mouth to give her my pitch, but she was already gone.
So I hired the illustrator Duncan Long to design a new cover. Again, he gave me what I asked for. Some readers have mistaken the male figure on the cover for a vampire, but then serial killers are the non-supernatural equivalent of vampires. Now I hire a cover designer who knows the marketplace and let him come up with the concepts. Pete Garceau designed the covers for both Daemon Seer and Darkroom.
I did all the proofreading for Talion myself. I figured this would work since I’m a good line editor and know the rules of grammar. I didn’t realize how hard it is for writers to see—really see—their own writing. The first edition was so riddled with errors that I was ashamed. The second edition was passable. The third edition has only a few errors. Along the way I cleaned up some rough passages and streamlined the story. By the time it was over, I’d revised the book twice and proofed it at least seven times.
Spending money on a copy editor and a proofreader would have saved me a load of work and heartache.
About the Books
There’s plenty of room for another grave in the mountains . . .
Talented but unstable photographer Day Randall has been living rent-free in Kelly Durrell’s Colorado condo for eight months. Day needs someone to keep an eye on her. Kelly needs someone to draw her out of her stable but not spectacular life. The arrangement works for both of them.
Then Kelly comes home one day to find Day gone. There’s no note, no phone call. Day’s car is still parked out front, but her room is starkly, suspiciously spotless.
No one seems to care. The police certainly aren’t interested in a missing bipolar artist, but Kelly knows something is wrong. Day wouldn’t just leave.
Alone, Kelly traces Day’s last steps through shadowy back rooms of Boulder nightclubs and to a remote mountain estate, where the wealthy protect themselves behind electric fences and armed guards. Along the way, she uncovers a sinister underworld lying just below the mountain snow, and a group of powerful people who will do anything to protect the secrets hidden in Day’s enigmatic photographs.
If she trusts the wrong person, Kelly herself will be the next to disappear.
“. . . tight, compelling, and convincing writing that is also witty and insightful.”
— Jon A. Jackson, author of Hit on the House and No Man’s Dog
“I couldn’t put this novel down. Darkroom is suspenseful and beautifully written. Kelly Durrell is a deftly-drawn, intelligent, and likable heroine.”
— Daiva Markelis, author of White Field, Black Sheep: A Lithuanian-American Life
“. . . unexpected plot twists and suspenseful action. The murder mystery is dark and menacing, and the characters are multi-faceted.”
— RT Source
Mary Maddox is a horror and dark fantasy novelist with what The Charleston Times-Courier calls a “Ray Bradbury-like gift for deft, deep-shadowed description.” Born in Soldiers Summit, high in the mountains of Utah, Maddox graduated with honors in creative writing from Knox College, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She taught writing at Eastern Illinois University and has published stories in various journals, including Yellow Silk, Farmer’s Market, The Scream Online, and The Huffington Post. The Illinois Arts Council has honored her fiction with a Literary Award and an Artist’s Grant.