January’s Third Thursday Wrap-Up: An Evening with the 2011 WLT Book Award Winners

By Lexie Smith

The 2012 Third Thursday series began where authors might like to end-up – at an awards presentation for their book. Thank you to all of you who came to applaud your fellow writers.  Congratulations to the 2011 WLT Book Award winners.

Fiction Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Non-FictionBefore Brown: Herman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice By Gary M. Lavergne

PoetryWorks & Days by Dean Rader

Writing for Children & Young AdultsCrossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

Each author read a selection from their book  and was presented with an inscribed award and a cash prize.

I know you’re happy for the winners, but you may be wondering, “What’s in it for me?”

Here’s what’s in it for you:  you can learn from someone who has done what you want to do – publish a book and get recognized for it.  You may not think you care about the notoriety, but a pat on the back for a job well done, and some cash, is always nice.

To help refresh your memory of the evening and for those who couldn’t make it, I’ll share a few things I learned from hearing the 2011 WLT Book Award winners talk about and read from their books.

1) Enter contests. Wining a contest helps with your book’s publicity. (Outside of the authors’ friends and family, had any of you heard of these books before tonight? I hadn’t.)  Also, receiving a prize is a nice bit of motivation.

2) Enter local and national contests.  Three of the four winners live out of state. Austin and Texas are fabulous, but don’t forget to to bless people in other states with your writing.

3) Publishers do work on behalf of their authors.  All of tonight’s books were submitted to the contest by publishers, not the authors. If you self-publish, remember to submit your books to contests.

4) Social media and platform are important, but you don’t have to be an expert at it. Pick one thing, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or blogging, and start using it. The awards weren’t won because of a social media campaign, but it was nice to learn about the authors online.

5) Make videos about your topic or book, if you’re interested, per #4.  Barb hired someone to do a book trailer. Gary uses YouTube, “It’s not great quality, but it works for what we want to do.” Dean and Daphne are on YouTube because others posted clips from book readings they have done.

(Stop by YouTube to visit their videos. Gary brought his own videographer, i.e., his wife, to record and post his portion of the evening his YouTube channel.  Dean’s fans have posted a  few videos of him reading at different venues.  Both Daphne’s video  and Barbara’s book trailer share parts of their books we didn’t hear tonight. )

As you see, the WLT Third Thursdays are full of information and inspiration for writers, even on an awards night.  So make plans now to attend February’s Third Thursday and learn about “Burning the Midnight Oil: Balancing the Act of Life and Writing” with Greg Levin, DJ Stout and K.A. Holt.

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.


November Third Thursday Wrap-Up: 5 Keys to a Successful Book Launch

By Lexie Smith

We wrapped up the Build Your Book series with the final Third Thursday of 2011. The topic “The Book Launch and Beyond” focused on presenting your book to the public through a book launch event.  Our panelists were author John Pipkin,the Book People children’s’ events coordinator and marketing director Mandy Brooks and literary publicist Stephanie Barko.

The evening’s conversation has been distilled into five keys to a successful book launch.


What can you do now, even if you have a book that is nowhere near finished?  Start working on the infrastructure of your social network, especially online.  Due to the publishing industry’slong lead times (up to two years for a book), you have the opportunity, before your book comes out, to build potential readership through a variety of online resources.  Facebook, Twitter, your blog, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Library Thing andAmazon.com are some options.

You don’t have to do them all. Pick a few and work on them. Start growing your presence on these sites before you publish your book, the idea being similar to compound interest on your savings account – the longer your assets are in there, the more interest is earned.

Once you are close to a publication date for your project, start planning for your book launch at least three to six months before your launch date, especially if you are a local or new author.


You are responsible for publicizing your book. At some pointyou may hire someone to help you.  In the meantime, start planning how you will get the word out about your book.Utilize your social network, online and off. Contact different groups that are related to your book.  Look for magazines, newspapers, or blogs to publish articles about your topic. The author’s efforts to advertise the book event is the most effective way to make the event successful.


Mandy compared the book launch to a race. Training and preparation are important before you compete, but you keep doing what you do after the big day, whether it’s running or marketing.  The book event is the seed from which other interests grow. She also mentioned being persistent when trying to schedule an event.  Don’t keep doing the same thing, though. Vary your pitch when you approach an event coordinator or group leader.


Book launches take different forms.  Some are soft launches,where the book’s Amazon button simply goes from pre-order toorder. Others are more party-like, either in a book store or another location. Think about different options, tailored to your book and readers, for your book launch.

You also need to be flexible when it comes to what you do before the event.  Do more than tend your contact list. For example, eight months before his book was released, John published a related feature article in the Boston Globe. Use your creativity when thinking of ways to promote your book and its launch.


Standing next to a plate of cookies, waiting for someone – anyone – to show up at your book launch is not fun. Stephanie stated and restated the importance of creating and maintaining your contact list with email addresses and snail mail addresses (if possible), sortable by zip code.  Local matters when it comes to event attendance.

The people on your list are actual people, not just names. Leverage social media to interact with them. Make your publicity personal.

Since the act of writing is individual but the business of writing is a team sport, be aware of others who can help you with your book launch: readers, event coordinators, literary agents andpublicists may have something to do with your book launch in one way or another.

Put It All Together

As you may have noticed, these five aspects of book marketing are quite enmeshed with each other.  Be patient with yourself as you learn to work with them at different times, considering the ebb and flow of your professional and personal life. And don’t forget to let us know about your book launch!

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

October’s Third Thursday Wrap Up: “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing”

By Lexie Smith

“Hey! Did you hear about my book? “

“I’m writing a book. It’s gonna be awesome.”

“Please buy my book. “

Pestering your friends, family, and foes is one kind of marketing, but the “I’ll buy your book so you’ll shut up” sale is not public relations gold.

Thankfully, there are ways that are more effective and, dare I say, enjoyable.  But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Marika Flatt, Jennifer Hill, and Dominic Smith, were the experienced panel of authors and communication professionals who inspired us during  October ‘s Third Thursday program at Recycled Reads, Austin Public Library’s invigorating used bookstore. Here’s a quick recap.

Helping Dr. Author and Mr. Marketer Coexist

You may be intimidated or simply not like the idea of being a business, but a split personality is not required to promote your writing career.  Writer you and PR you are both you. (And neither is as nasty as Mr. Hyde.) These tips can help the one you do both things needed to sell your work.

Guard your active writing time. Whatever time of day works for you, protect it. Marketing and PR must be additional time in your schedule, but don’t let it cut it into time spent on your primary writing projects.

Manage your marketing time.  Jennifer suggested you divide your marketing time between writing marketing content, and interacting on the social network(s) you’re a part of.

Improve your writing while marketing.  Always Capra helped Jennifer strengthen her character development and social media muscles at the same time. Blogs give you more space to do that, while Twitter’s 140 character limit requires conciseness. (Especially if U R going 2 limit textspeak, by choice or need.  LOL.)

Realize the value of industry professionals. Do-it-yourself technology (blogs, Twitter and Facebook) makes it easier and cheaper than ever for authors to connect with readers. However, at some point, you can benefit from the experience and industry relationships of public relations professionals. To get an idea of what they offer, from a consult to a full marketing plan, visit Marika’s at PR by the Book and Jennifer ‘s services at Robin Hill Media.

This is How They Do It

Take a look at a few authors who do marketing and PR well. When you see something you like, try to incorporate it into your plan.

Marika mentioned how well author Bryan Davis uses Facebook to connect.  He responds to all comments and even alters his book tour according to suggestions from his fans.  He has several books and over 3,000 Facebook “Likes” for his page.

Jennifer started her Always Capra blog out of boredom. Her character Capra was also active on Facebook and Twitter.  An agent noticed and Jennifer was signed to write a novel.

Billy Coffey has one book under his belt with another coming out November 2011. Marika noted the strength of his online presence. He uses WordPress for his site, which includes a blog and links to his Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can also see a list of interviews he has done.

What’s Next?

All the PR skills you develop will help with the next step of building your book, the book launch, which happens to be November’s Third Thursday topic, “Blast off: The Book Launch & Beyond.” Join us on November 17 for for the conclusion of our “Building Your Book” series.

(My apologies to Dominic Smith for not mentioning him more often. Due to traffic, I missed the first half of the meeting, so I didn’t hear him speak as much.  If any of you were there and would like to leave a comment to fill in the gaps, please do. Thanks.)

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.comBloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

September’s Third Thursday Wrap Up, Behind the Publishing House Curtain”

By Lexi Smith

September’s Third Thursday program took us “Behind the Publishing House Curtain” with two booksellers and a publicist. Gillian Redfearn is a Key Account Manager for MacMillian Publishing, Gianna La Morte is a Sales Manager at UT Press, and Colleen Devine Ellis is the Publicity Manager at UT Press.

What did we find behind the curtain? Not a new car or a man pretending to be a wizard. We found inspiration and advice to help your book along the yellow brick road to publication.

You probably won’t encounter flying monkeys or talking trees (unless you’re in Marfa with Gianna) as you work to get your book in print. But, you can learn from Dorothy and friends about what it takes to reach your destination. Put on your Oz-colored glasses as we distill the conversation with Gillian, Gianna and Colleen into four things you’ll need as you work towards publishing your book.

Brains – It obviously takes a certain amount of brain power to write a book. Then it takes more to rewrite your book. Additionally, you have to figure out how to navigate all the different components of becoming (and being!) a published author. Avail yourself to the rich resources available in the Austin writing community. For example, tonight’s panel was an excellent opportunity to access professionals in the book industry and learn from their experiences.

Heart – Don’t give up on your dream of writing. Books mentioned tonight took from 3-10 years to write. Your book may take more or less time. Then you’re off to find a publisher. Once accepted for publication, it can take from 18 months to 2 years to publish. Becoming a published writer is not for the faint of heart.

Courage – Do you want your book to sell? If so, marketing your book will become a part-time job. Technology can make it easier than it used to be, but it can still be a daunting task. Though social media options (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) may overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to try them.

Need help? For inspiration, check out Liz and Gianna’s Adventures in Bookland blog. For instruction, sign-up for the ongoing Tuesday Night Tech Talks at the WLT and learn the nuts and bolts of technology for authors. You can also join us on Thursday, October 20th for “An Author’s Guide to PR & Marketing.”

Our panel also encouraged us to be bold, without being a jerk, in asking for things from your publicist, agent or editor. Let them know your expectations. You may not get what you want, but you can ask.

Friends – The Munchkins, Glenda, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion all helped Dorothy get to the Wizard. Likewise, you’ll need a team of people to help with your book. Family, friends, critique groups, editors, agents, book sellers and publicists can all help. Again, the WLT can help with many of these connections.

When Dorothy woke from her Technicolor dream, she found her ordinary world filled with people who loved her. As dreams of publishing your book are challenged by the stark reality of what that takes, remember that your friends, brains, heart and courage can help you reach your Emerald City.

Resources Mentioned

Self-Publishing Options

CreateSpace.com is part of Amazon.com.

Classes, Conferences and Workshops

October 8, AustinSCBWI, “Storytelling in the Digital Age”

November 12th, AustinSCBWI, “Write What You Think You Can’t”

Ongoing – “Silver Voices in Ink” from Badgerdog.org – Writing course for senior citizens with ongoing classes around Austin.

Writers’ League Agents Conference

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

Meet Author Helen Simonson on Monday!

The Writers’ League of Texas is pleased to team up with BookPeople to host an event with Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 10.

WLT Executive Director Cyndi Hughes will talk with Helen about her books, the craft of writing, her writing life, and much more!

Here’s a preview of the book: The courtly Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet, quite proper life in the English village of Edgecomb St. Mary’s. When his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village, they soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. This debut novel charmed the staff at BookPeople and introduced a wonderful new writer to the world.

For more details, visit BookPeople’s website. Let’s have a great turnout to welcome Helen to Austin!

Helen also has a great post about writing on Timothy Hallinan’s Blog Cabin. Among our favorite quotes:

“My writing style can be best described as procrastination plus panic.” (we think a LOT of writers can relate!)

“Sometimes I really like the writing. What I like is the completely blank mind that comes …after I have said aloud the awkward meaning of what I am trying to say, only ungrammatical…and just before the perfect phrase pops up; syntactically shiny and glowing with freshness. Those moments make me get up from my office chair, numb-bottomed in my jeans, and do a little jig of joy.”

Read the whole post here.

Meet the Author Enablers Live and in Person!

Sam Barry & Kathi Kamen Goldmark

The Author Enablers are coming to Austin this weekend! The dynamic duo of Sam Barry and Kathi Kamen Goldmark will be doing two events for the Writers’ League of Texas around their new book, Write That Book Already: The Tough Love You Need to Get Published Now:

  • They’ll be at BookPeople at 7 p.m. today, so please come on out and get some book tough love!
  • The “Write That Book Already” workshop at the WLT office tomorrow (sorry, folks, registration has closed).

Hope to see y’all tonight at BookPeople!

Enter “The Passage”

WLT Launches New Author Interview Series with Author Justin Cronin

3 p.m., Saturday, June 19
BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar, Austin

The Passage, Houston author Justin Cronin’s new post-apocalyptic novel, finally came out last week to rave reviews. We’re delighted to announce that Justin will kick off the WLT’s new author interview series, “This Writing Life,” at BookPeople on June 19.

He has the biggest book of the summer, and not just because it tops 750 pages — it was all the rage at Book Expo America, and the New York Times just reviewed it.

WLT Executive Director Cyndi Hughes will interview Justin about his book, the art of writing, and, yes, vampires. The epic story of a creepy viral infestation that brings about the end of the world as we know it — and the girl who saves us all — is not just a great read; it’s a literary page-turner. Cyndi reports that The Passage lives up to the hype. “I just can’t put it down, and I’m staying up way too late at night,” she says. “It’s the kind of book you can really sink your teeth into (pardon the pun)!”

A book like this doesn’t come around every day, and we hope you’ll come to BookPeople to see why. Plus, a percentage of sales on June 19 will benefit the Writers’ League of Texas (thank you, BookPeople!).

Visit the BookPeople website for more information about the event. But don’t stop there — come on down and see what The Passage is all about!

UT Michener Center for Writers Presents: Elizabeth McCracken

Tuesday, March 30, 7:00 p.m.

603 N Lamar Blvd

Elizabeth McCracken is the author of a collection of short stories, Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry , and two novels, The Giant’s House , a finalist for the National Book Award in 1996, and Niagara Falls All Over Again , winner of the PEN/Winship Award. She holds the James Michener Chair in Fiction of the Michener Center for Writers.

John Pipkin at BookPeople Tonight!

John Pipkin officially launches his debut novel, Woodsburner, tonight at 7 at BookPeople in Austin. Come on out, Leaguers, and support John!

And in case you missed it, John received a glowing review in the New York Times on Sunday.  My favorite line? “Woodsburner” is, in effect, a wily fictional prequel to “Walden.”

The kudos just keep coming!