Mar. 5 Book Signing in OKC

Hi everybody, my next book signing event will be Thursday, March 5th at Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City. MC’d by OKC’s own Timothy Bradford, the evening will feature me reading from the book, answering questions from the audience, and then signing copies.

Located at 50 Penn Place, OKC

I hope you can join us for an evening of fun and discussion of topics ranging from the scandals of college football to the vagaries of independent authorship and publication.

Me with Timothy Bradford at our last book signing.

Click on “Contact Me” above if you’d like more info on the event.

3 Author Scams to Avoid

Since my novel has gotten a bit of press and recognition, the scammers have come out of the woodwork, so I want to share my experience with you other independent authors out there so you can avoid such pitfalls.

Below are three common, but probably not the only, scams that I have come across:

Screenplay Offers

I’ve had several ‘publishing companies’, often based on the East Coast, cold call me to sell me on how they will adapt my novel to a screenplay and get it in front of ‘their’ industry professionals in Hollywood. For a Fee.

But that’s not how book options work. Productions companies, agents, and writers must pay YOU for a period ($500 up) of time (say 3-6 months) for the rights to try to sell your work to studios and people who could make the movie. Offer them something like those terms and see if they are serious.

I told one company, “Why do I need to pay you–I’m the writer and can adapt the screenplay myself and submit it to contests!” They didn’t like that.

If you do happen to get a legitimate option offer, it’s time to hire a lawyer, manager, or agent. You’ll need an iron-clad contract. Never agree to anything verbally without something in writing.

The blog Writers Beware gives some more information on the history of this scam in a recent post.

Festival Offers

Some ‘publishing’ companies will offer to promote your book at the L.A. Festival or London Festival of the Book. For a fee.

Now, some of these companies seem legit, some don’t. But they are asking a lot of money for something you can get through a) your publisher, even if its a small press, or b) by hiring a PR consultant who works for you. PR professionals maybe be more expensive, but they will also work to place your book

You can also apply to many festivals, such as the San Antonio Book Festival, on your own as a writer. Big book expos, like New York’s, sell slots for authors on their display shelves, and they are much less expensive than what these scammers are offering. Others are geared toward indy authors.

Here’s a comprehensive list on book fairs/festivals from the Center for Book Publishing. Do you own homework and save money!

Advertising Offers

The other day, I got a ridiculous email from “Happy Media” (the name itself is a red flag) trying to sell me ad in Publisher’s Weekly. Now how stupid do they think we are? I don’t need a middleman for that. Why would I not just contact Publisher’s Weekly itself or buy an ad through their PW Selected program or through their indie author site, Booklife?

Many paid review sites, such as Booklife, are legit and a good way to promote your book. Just do research and ask other authors about their experiences first.

Rules of Thumb

There are ways to tell if an offer is legitimate, and the rules are not complicated:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you need to make sure, run the offer by mentors, friends in publishing, or a lawyer (indispensable for an indy author).
  • If they contact you and ask you for money up front, it’s probably not legit. As an author, your intellectual property is valuable, and you should be getting a return on your investment. So make sure that anyone you hire to promote your book has a contractual or fiduciary obligation to do so. Most legit PR professionals will wait for you to seek them out, so do your homework.
  • Trust your gut. If something feels off about the contact or, say, their email timestamps or phone numbers don’t seem to line up with where they say they are based, then it could be a fake foreign company. Be ware.

Have you had any of the same experiences? Leave any questions or advice you may have in the comments below. Thanks!

Book Giveaway Results!

I conducted the first giveaway of a hard and e-copy of my novel Ivory Tower, which was just released last Saturday, Feb 2, 2020. Here’s the video evidence of the drawing uploaded for posterity! Congrats to the winners and thanks to all who entered!

Drumroll, please!
Congrats, Ashley!

Thanks to my cameraman, Lennon Jenkins (9), for the professional cinematography!

Lennon, my executive producer and cameraman

Thanks for playing – if you didn’t win, please consider buying a copy of the book from me, Amazon, or your local, independent bookstore. Cheers!

Official Release Day for Ivory Tower!

Well, after months of planning, promoting, pushing the book to friends, influences, and media, the day has finally arrived: my novel is officially born into the world! It’s exciting but also a bit troubling: Why happens now? Will people buy it? Will they like it?

I don’t know and will just have to see. I have no control over those questions, which is what make me so anxious. It’s the waiting that is hard.

In the meantime, my plan is to keep my head down, keep

  • Hustling: peddling my book to bookstores and libraries
  • Reading and signing: doing public events around the city, state, and country to meet readers
  • Talking: mention my book to strangers and acquaintances, even though I know some of them are sick of hearing about it :p
  • Promoting my book through social media, advertising if possible, and getting reviews.

Those are the things I can control.

If you’ve read this far, please consider buying my book. I would prefer you buy it from me (I’ll send a signed copy!), or ask for it at your local, independent bookstore (find yours through Indie Bound).

But if you must, you can buy it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books, Google Play, and their international affiliates.

Ivory Tower is a #1 Best Seller!

Two weeks before its official release, my novel, Ivory Tower, is #1 on the fiction chart in Oklahoma, according to The Daily Oklahoman. That photo is a screenshot of the online edition. I’m so excited!

First of all, thank you to everyone who has bought a copy so far – you’re the ones who put me here!

Secondly, I’d like to stay at that spot for a while, but who knows? If you’d like a copy before the release date, buy a signed one at Magic City Books or from me through my website. If you live in the U.S., I’ll even chip in the shipping and tax!

Lastly, why stop at Oklahoma? Let’s shoot for the nation and then the world. New York Times, London Review of Books, Beijing Daily – here I come!

How you can help it rise

Again, thanks for reading. Please like my Facebook author page, follow me on Goodreads, and spread the word about how much you loved the book! Even if you didn’t buy it on Amazon, a short review about what you liked most can really help. Merci beaucoup!

Authors – don’t forget local press coverage!

In the world of social media and the coveted NYT book review, I urge you not to forget about promoting your book through local media. Not only do Americans get a majority of their news from local sources–TV, newspapers, magazines–but research shows that they trust those sources more than they do national outlets.

Not only is local media an integral part of the lives of people in your community, it’s FREE! Local news almost never charges you for coverage, unless you are specifically taking out an advertisement.

And since most local media is also online and supplemented by social media. You can share your local coverage with the world through your website, social media, and friends’ word of mouth.

Here are a few kinds of local media and what they can do for you:


Most people get their local news from television, so you want to find ways as an author to get a piece of that audience. Contact local TV stations and send them a press release well in advance of a launch even or book signing, and then follow up to see if they will send a news crew to cover it. Not likely, but you never know.

Also, most local TV stations have a local version of Good Morning America or The Today Show, and their producers are hungry for content. I’ve been on Good Day Tulsa on two occasions, one for music with Jam eCono and the other for my travels to Ireland! Usually, they feature locals who have and event near to the time of any on-screen interview, so reach out early to their staffers and follow up to get on their schedule. You can do it too!


Most cities have an NPR affiliate or other local station that is interested in promoting arts and culture. For instance, my local affiliate, KWGS in Tulsa, has a weekly, 30-minute interview show called “Studio Tulsa” on which the host, Rich Fisher, interviews authors and other artists regularly. Such shows are constantly looking for new content, so contact a producer at the station and pitch your book.

I was interviewed on Jan 9, 2020, and you can hear it here. Since the archives are online, this media not only local but international in reach. You can bet that I have been sharing and talking about this link as much as I can!

Newspapers & Magazines

Yes, people still read the news off of paper! And most cities not only have a local newspaper, but they often have a weekly ‘rag’ devoted to arts and culture. Unfortunately, Tulsa just lost it’s only weekly, The Tulsa Voice, but luckily it was subsumed by a local monthly magazine, Tulsa People. Because most of these sources are also online, they are no longer daily, weekly, or monthly but part of the 24-hour news cycle. Take advantage of that!

These local print sources regularly interview writers, feature their events on a calendar, or write reviews of books. Tulsa People / The Voice reporter Mason Whitehorn Powerll interviewed me more than a month before my book out.

Contact editors or assistants through the paper’s website and send them a pitch, along with your one-sheet, sell sheet, advanced information sheet, or press release.

Social Media as Local Media

Sure, social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat is on the internet and therefore is virtually global in its reach. But most of our social media accounts work locally; that is, most of our friends and followers are people who live in our town or close to us. So, in that sense, social media is a local media.

So use social media like Facebook to create calendar event pages for your readings and signings and then to target promotion of those events to people who can actually attend those events in person. If they can’t, you can also broadcast them live! It really easy and intuitive to create these free promotional opportunities, so take advantage of them!

Make the most of local opportunities

Do some research on your local media and get to contacting them. The worst thing they can do is say ‘no,’ but if you don’t hear from them, be persistent and be the squeaky wheel! You can even use this interactive map from the Pew Research Center to see how your community relies on local news to decide how your allocate your time and resources the most effectively.

Photos: “Big Fish Games featured on local news” by Narisa is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 . Lexi/Shutterstock

Ivory Tower book launch tonight!

The launch event for my latest novel, Ivory Tower, is tonight at 7pm in the new literary hotspot of the globe, Tulsa, Oklahoma! Hosted by Magic City Books and its Executive Director, Jeff Martin, the evening will feature me reading an excerpt from the novel, conversing with Jeff, and fielding questions from the audience.

I will also be selling and signing advanced copies of the book, so come out and get your copy a month before the official release date of Feb 1. Or you can order online direct from me to get a signed copy mailed to you.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to Jeff, Pat Cawiezell (author events coordinator), and all the staff at Magic City. See you tonight!

5 Reasons to Have a Book Release Event

Celebration of your accomplishments as a writer is reason enough to have a party at the launch of your publication, but there are other great reasons as well. Here are my top 5:

#1) To Generate Buzz

Getting people excited about your book will make them want to read it probably as much as any other form of promotion. Your passion and belief in your project is contagious and will motivate others to want to see what all the hubbub is about. Sometimes, reporters, bloggers, and other media will attend these events to generate copy, so you can get free publicity out of it.

#2) To Sell Books

Seems obvious, but you can sell lots of books at public events. First, people will hear first hand the quality of your writing and the relatability of your characters when you read aloud. Second, you are right there, essentially asking for the sale, and thus much more likely to close the deal. At my event this week, my goal is to sell 10 copies – I’ll let you know how it goes.

#3) To Collect Media

Ask someone you know or hire a photographer to take photos and video at your event so you can build your media library of you in action. People want to interact with authors, and photos of you doing just that will show your appeal. Video of you reading, answering questions, or signing books make an active addition to your web page or social media campaign.

#4) To Know your Audience

You can learn a lot about who your audience by who shows up in person to your events. Note their age, gender, socio-economic status. Their questions and comments will tell you why they read and what they will look for in a book. You can use this data now to target any future advertisements or event venues. Or, you can use that information later as you plan and draft your next novel.

#5) Kick Off a Book Tour

I’ll talk more about book tours, but using a launch event is a great way to start a multi-city tour where you can read from your new book, sell and sign copies, and get local media coverage. Tours take planning, so start thinking about them well in advance of your release date.

Honorable Mention: Enjoyment

Last but not least, a kick-off event allows your to sit back on your laurels, if just for a moment, to savor the glory of being an author. That feeling can go a long way to keeping you motivated and committed when things aren’t going your way. Enjoy the moments while you can!

Photo: me and Written Quincy at an event at Magic City Books in Tulsa.

Where to send books for review?

Getting reviews of your book is essential not only to its critical success but its commercial success as well. Reviews spread the word to potential readers about the content and quality of your writing and can lead to sales and even more reviews. No matter what kind of book you have written–experimental poetry to page-turner novel–reviews help build your reputation and numbers.

So, once you’ve published and are seeking reviews, what’s next?

When to Send

Before I answer the “where” question, let me answer “when” to send your book out for reviews. Most reputable review publications, in print or online, require a 3 month lead-time BEFORE the book is released. They want the ‘scoop’ of having reviewed your book before anyone else has read it. That timing makes their review more ‘exclusive.’

About 4 months before you know your book will be coming out (and talk frankly with your editor or publisher about this unless you are self-publishing), you should do some research on venues and their requirements. (Hopefully, that’s why you are reading this–it’s research!)

Make a list or spreadsheet of all the places you want to send it and keep track of when and what you sent to each place.

Where to Send

I think spending a month or a few weeks learning about all the different ways you can get reviews is a good idea. There are places, like Poets & Writers, or Reedsy, that have listings of review venues all in one place.

  • Traditional media. Newspapers and magazines like The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, BookList, or even NPR are still the gold-standard of book reviews. Although they depend highly on large publishers, agents, and editors for review submissions, most of them will take unsolicited books under consideration. Most of them, be advised, want hard copies of books 3 months in advance, so be sure to check early.
  • Online magazines. Many review outlets have gone or have started exclusively online. They often are more open to e-books and can have a shorter turn around time. I submitted to City Book Review, The Compulsive Reader, American Book Review, and BookRiot, among others.
  • Respected authors. If you know other writers personally, they are great sources for reviews, since many of them already write reviews in their careers. If you don’t know writers, it cannot hurt to reach out to ones you have read, through social media, at their events, or through their agents, and ask them to write a blurb or review. Even a short blurb from a well-read author can give your book a boost, since you can use it on your one-sheet, Amazon, your social media, website, and
  • Paid review services. With such sites like Self-Publishing Review and Booklife (Publishers Weekly’s indy review site), reviews are guaranteed, though good ones are not. Prices vary from $50-500 but they can be good ways to get reviews quickly and objectively.
  • Blogs. Many avid fans dedicate lots of time and energy to review, mostly for free, books in genres they love. Some have gained quite a bit of fame from something that started as a hobby, and thus they have become highly influential to readers looking to buy good books. Reedsy has a great list of 250 top bloggers searchable by genre.
  • Social Media. Many bookclubs, reviewers, and magazines publish reviews, author Q&As, and cover photos. Follow them, submit books to them, and see if you can get some love.

A Word on Amazon Reviews

Do you want lots of great Amazon reviews? Yes, of course you do; reviews drive Amazon’s algorithm to push your book up the rankings and in front of more potential readers.

But Amazon is a bit temperamental about reviews. First, readers cannot post reviews of your book until it has been released. This is why all of the advanced options above are still crucial to your book’s success. Second, close friends and family members are not allowed to review, as are any reviewers who may gain from the review. See Amazon’s rules here.

Second, it’s hard to get readers to review your book if they don’t read it, and they may not read it without reviews. A sorta chicken-and-egg dilemma.

But there are ways to generate reviews on Amazon:

  • Ask acquaintances, colleagues, and advance readers to post reviews. They are customers and readers, so their word matters. And they are most likely interested in your success and will likely write good reviews. Don’t hesitate to ask people to review your book. As I’ve sold advanced copies, I include a note in the book that says “if you enjoyed the book, please review it on Amazon!” The worst they can do is say no.
  • Offer a Giveaway. Give an advance copy to people (aside from close friends and family) if they agree to review you on Amazon. Pretty good return on the investment, if you ask me.
  • Join an author review network. In circles like Reviews 4 Best Sellers, authors buy and review each other’s books. It’s legitimate and within Amazon’s strict rules for reviews, and it can expose you to what other writers in your genre are doing out there.
  • Pay for reviews. I advise against this. Fake or bot reviews are illegal on Amazon and will get your entire profile and book deleted from the site. There are legitimate reviewers/bloggers you can pay, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price, since there are other methods for gettin reviews on Amazon.

What’s been your experience with Amazon? How did you get reviews on Amazon or through other outlets?