Day 25: Specialization is for insects

What Robert A. Heinlein said:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion,
butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders,
give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations,
analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer,
cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects.”

Photo: brewbooks (Creative Commons Flickr)
Buyers are waiting to discover my books. Because they’re a great read!Photo: brewbooks (Creative Commons Flickr)

An author should be able to do all that–and sell books too. This means that I am more than a writer. I am a businesswoman.

My books are my business. It’s taken a while for this to sink in. I remember watching episodes of Shark Tank with my son–ha, in the School of Business at Portland State this show has a huge following!–and realizing that I was an entrepreneur.

“Little Cousin Laura,” stepping up at last to join the ranks of her prosperous family! Ah, but will books make me a millionaire? *smile*

The shift from hobby to profession is significant and subtle.  I put in effort to promote my first series: writing blog articles, requesting reviews, giving away books. This new indie book release challenges me to do more.

These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. ~Gilbert Highet

When I began forking over significant money, the business aspect of writing became real. I purchased a software license for book formatting, and I invested in that beautiful Damonza cover–worth every cent!  Now I’ve got to earn back these investments.

I’ve been blogging more consistently, too. Learning to share my life experiences with the wide world. Putting my name out there for search engines to catalog. And writing every single day.

Photo: Ginny (Creative Commons Flickr)
“…not lumps of lifeless paper…” Photo: Ginny (Creative Commons Flickr)

Indie author groups (outside the Austen realm) have been a bonanza of information. How to run a promotion, and on which sites. How to price books and cross-promote and use Twitter effectively. How writing a series is an excellent career-builder. Right before my eyes I’ve seen an indie “Twitter Army” catapult books into the public eye.

The real change is that with the Darcy book I’ll be purchasing ads. Okay, inexpensive ads, but still!  Not to annoy potential readers, but to share with them a really good read.

That’s all for today–it’s time to open the door for students. Thanks for reading! You can check out what other challenge participants’ are blogging about here.

Day 24: Book Signing and the Contact High

Laura Hile, Susan Kaye, Pamela Aidan, C. Allyn Pierson
Author Line-up: with Susan Kaye, Pamela Aidan, C. Allyn Pierson

Today’s prompt wants to know all about my first book signing. So I’m taking you on a smiling trip down memory lane.

I was invited to sit at the author’s table at the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America. The year was 2010 and the host city was Portland. And I was a brand-new author.

Pioneer Courthouse Square Photo: David Wilson (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: David Wilson (Creative Commons Flickr)

Dear Portland. There are a few things about our downtown that you need to understand: 

    • Parking can be expensive and sometimes hard to find, so it’s smart to ride in on the MAX train. That’s what Susan Kaye and I did.
    • To get to the Hilton, we had to cross Pioneer Courthouse Square.
    • Besides tourists, many people hang out there, like, all day.
    • Portland law enforcement doesn’t really enforce cannabis laws. Yeah, marijuana use in public. There’s a lot of that.
Photo: Parker Knight
Photo: Parker Knight (Creative Commons Flickr)

So there were clouds of pot smoke in the air on that bright October afternoon. I was already nervous–who knew what kind of reception we would have? This was the leading Jane Austen event for the year, and we’d be meeting Austen purists. Our genre was still very new–would we be snubbed? And then Susan Kaye and I began to giggle.

Great. Our first formal author event, and we had a Contact High.  Way to make a good impression! We found our publisher, managed to shake off the giggles, and had a wonderful time. It was a prime opportunity to people watch, oh yes. And to meet readers and fellow authors, such as C. Allyn Pierson. We even sold a few books!

Photo: Wildcat Dunny
Photo: Wildcat Dunny (Creative Commons Flickr)

As for pot, on October 1, 2015, recreational use became legal for adults. This presents many interesting scenarios for Oregonians. Like the guy featured on the news who said, “Hey, it’s legal! How come I lost my job?”

Bummer, dude. You can’t come to work stoned, any more than you can come to work drunk. Life is cruel like that.

So there you have it–the story of my first book signing. See you tomorrow!

Day 23: Captain O’Manly and me

pirate-clipart-KWThat’s his name: O’Manly. And he’s a pirate. I know, right? But the prompt asks which of my characters I’d like to meet up with, and he immediately came to mind.

It has to do with the twinkly blue eyes and the wide smile. And the outrageous name he chose for himself. The swashbuckling thing appeals to me today, right down to his anchor tattoo. Or is it a ship? I forget.

Anyway, I’ve decided to work on his book for NaNoWriMo next month. Not that I’ll finish! Report cards and teacher conference week pull the wind from my NaNo sails each year. But 20,000  words is much better than nothing. I’d like to release Captain O’Manly’s book before summer.

Photo: Portland Tribune (Image is link to article)
Woody Royale burger and homemade strawberry-peach pie. Count me in! Photo: Portland Tribune (Image is link to article)

Where To meet? Tilt, of course. It’s a blue-collar burger joint near the shipyard on Swan Island. Salt air and swagger and man-food. He’d be right at home–anyone would. Get a look at that burger!

Why him? Because I need the low-down on his backstory. Why a life of piracy? Who is Mr. Pike? And why would the man kidnap Isabella, the lass who has captured O’Manly’s heart? This inquiring author wants to know!

Here’s hoping good eats and house-brewed beer will get O’Manly talking. Otherwise I’ll have to start making stuff up.

Which character do the other challenge authors want to meet? I’ll be visiting their blogs to find out. Here’s the list of participants. Thanks for stopping by!

~ Vintage pirate illustration is by Walter H. Everett ~

Day 22: Talk about an ideal endorsement!

Pamela Aidan, author and friend
Pamela Aidan

My first books carried an awesome recommendation–that of beloved Austen author, Pamela Aidan. Anyone familiar with the genre will recognize the name, and will probably say that Pamela’s books are among her favorites.

I blush to tell you that I did not have to ask. Pamela offered to endorse my books simply because she is my friend. And, well…she likes my writing.

Pamela’s Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy retells Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. She did a masterful job.


Simon and Schuster thought so too, and offered Pamela a hefty advance to re-release her books under their imprint.

Talk about a real-life Sleeping Beauty story!  We were so excited for her. Many authors in the Austen genre say that Pamela Aidan’s books inspired them to try their hand at writing.

If you haven’t read this series, and if you would enjoy a beautifully-written, true-to-Austen retelling, why not give it a try?  The book covers link to Pamela Aidan’s Amazon page, giving purchase information. But your library probably has copies–yes, they are that popular.(They were featured at Costco, okay?)

But if you go the borrowing route, you might have to wait. The last time I checked our main library’s database (oh, several years ago), there were thirteen (13) holds for her first book…

Mercy's 1 backmatterHere is a snapshot showing Pamela’s endorsement of Mercy’s Embrace: So Rough a Course:

“The world of Jane Austen’s Persuasion fairly sparkles under Laura Hile’s deft and humorous touch. While Elizabeth Elliot retains the abrasive edges of Austen’s original, you’ll be as delighted as I was to see her develop into a woman deserving of a good man’s love.”
author of
Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman

So that’s my endorsement story. You can check out the other challenge participants’ posts here. Thanks for stopping by!

Day 21: Demographic Who?

Photo: Lars Ploughmann (Creative Commons Flicker)
Buyers, buyers everywhere! But how to connect? Photo: Lars Ploughmann (Creative Commons Flicker)

So yesterday I mentioned that indie or not, book promotion is all on the author. This is my cue for sighing and hand-wringing. On the other hand, advertising is a skill like any other, right? Meaning that promotion–smart promotion–can be learned.

The secret to effective sales is identifying the market. Who is buying my books? Today’s prompt wants to know, right down to the tiniest detail. And so do I.

Because the alternative is to bombard social media with continual “Buy My Book!” posts. Ah, but I can be taught. Social media is not like the captive television audience of my youth, when we were forced to watch commercials. These ads feel right because they are familiar, but on the Internet they do not work.

There’s so much information out there that people have become adept at ignoring it. And repetitious ‘book-begging’ ads on Twitter or Facebook push the ‘ignore thing’ into becoming an ‘irate thing.’ With a tap, the problem is solved. The irritating author is unfriended or unfollowed.

Juliana Dacoregio (Creative Commons Flickr)
Ah, book love! Oh to stay up late with a good read! Photo: Juliana Dacoregio (Creative Commons Flickr)

Works for me. But for the now-unfollowed author? Not so much. So I need to figure out who my buyer is, and then present my books in a non-annoying way. And then, if she likes them, perhaps she will put in a good word with her friends on social media…

It’s more than demographics, it’s (wait for it) psychographics! Meaning a customer profile based on personality, tastes, values, opinions, lifestyle, interests, quirks, and fears. (I like the shared fears part best. “I hate rats! Buy my book!”)

Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões (Creative Commons Flickr)
I think of my books as fun beach reads. With something to think about too. Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões (Creative Commons Flickr)

So I write the kind of books I like to read. Am I marketing to me? Someone who is overworked, overweight, and over-committed? Looking to escape all that in bookland?

So here is what I like:

  • A good book, please. Fun and confident and sparkling smart, with an ending that delivers.
  • Flinch-free, too. A character getting his just deserts is fine, and so is sad or tragic. But flat-out embarrassing isn’t funny. If I squirm, the book gets closed.
  • Same with a sex-as-the-sole-plot-driver story. Because falling in love is about so much more. Like, a meeting of the minds? (Which is harder to write, because as the reader I must fall in love as well.)
  • Human, not perfect, characters that I can love. Or love to hate.
  • Camaraderie with a smattering of snark.
  • A hero or heroine realizing that they are more than they thought.
  • Something to do with disguise or the unknown.
  • An adventure, but believable too. I want to be swept away without something clanking.
  • A happy ending or a mystery solved, something noble gained.

And here are readers I’m targeting for my new Darcy novel:

  • Lovers of ‘traditional Regency’ (comedy of manners) and historical romance
  • Those who enjoy Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Elizbeth Gaskell
  • Fans of period movies
  • Women who would love to be the witty Elizabeth Bennet–they are everywhere, from all walks of life!
  • Lovers of the noble (and wealthy) Mr. Darcy. Which would be, like, everyone
  • Those who follow (and sigh over) the Austen movie hero hunks (Firth, Macfadyen, Hinds, etc.)
  • Women looking to be swept away by a winsome ‘book boyfriend’

As you can see, my demographic list needs refining, but this is a start. More thinking ahead for me, especially as the book launch draws near.

Then again, there is the Twilight series, books written with teen and YA readers in mind. Who knew that gals my age–mothers of the intended audience–would be caught up in the sweep of vampire romance? So you never know.

Like surfing the perfect wave, mass appeal remains a mystery and an enticement. I can only be out there with my board (my books), working and ready to ride. And the right demographic helps me be at the right beach…

RiseoftheMachines_KristenLamb_FullCover_FinalFor more on social media, I highly recommend Kristin Lamb. Her Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World is excellent, and so is her blog.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Time is a precious commodity, and I appreciate being included in your day. Links to other challenge participants’ blogs are here.

Day 20: Pride and Self-Publication

How does my garden grow?
How does an author grow her brand? With quality storytelling, great covers, and word-of-mouth recommendations via social media friends–like you!

It’s easy to forget how quickly the stigma of self-publishing has vanished. At the turn of the century–this century!–self-publishing was the domain of the vanity press and a few hardy souls willing to take the risk. And humble their pride…

As print-on-demand technology became available, many small publishing houses sprang up. My first book series was released by such a press in 2009 and 2010. It wasn’t all that long ago, and yet so much about the publishing industry has changed.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (and the 70% royalty for ebooks) was a game-changer. Authors looked at that number, did some hard thinking, and put aside their pride. Not too long ago, a popular Austen-genre blog denied membership to indie authors because, you know, only traditionally-published writers were “real authors”. Not anymore!

When I first began blogging about social media, an on-line platform was an edge. Now? It is a lifeline. ~Kristen Lamb

Most Austen fiction is now self-published. And why not? The fan base is there, and even traditionally-published authors have to do their own promotion. Why give up a hefty royalty percentage if I’m doing all the work?

Social media is more important than ever. Bit by bit I’ve been learning how to connect with readers. Not because you are difficult to like! It’s just that in real life there is little about me that makes for, you know, gripping reading! This blog challenge is teaching me to look  deeper and share more.

I have every reason in the world to jump on the indie bandwagon: A winsome book concept, an established fan base, and the “right” Jane Austen characters. That is to say, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.

You might have noticed that I removed the Darcy By Any Other Name release countdown from the sidebar. So here’s the thing. While my strength continues to improve, the demands of full-time teaching have caused my energy level to fluctuate. I decided to pass on the added pressure. I’m gunning for October, honest!

Today’s prompt asks for publishing particulars  (in case you’re interested):

  • Formatting:  I’m using software licensed from The Book Designer for both print and ebook editions
  • Cover Design: Damonza
  • Printing and Distribution: Kindle Direct Publishing
  • Audiobook: Not at this time (Alas, I am an audiobook snob!)

Thanks so much for stopping by to read. And … Happy Friday!

Day 19: Meet Robin Helm, bibliophile

That’s what today’s prompt asks for: a “true bibliophile.” I didn’t have to go far to find one because my blogging pal fits the bill nicely. In Robin Helm’s own words, here is how an avid reader comes to be.

Photo: Arwen Abenstern (Creative Commons Flickr)
Fascination with books starts early, doesn’t it?  Photo: Arwen Abenstern (Creative Commons Flickr)


Reading has fascinated me since I was old enough to understand words. I am the youngest of six children, and watching my mother and older siblings (particularly Gayle Mills) read added fuel to the fire. I yearned to understand the symbols and lose myself in the stories. Neither Gayle nor I have ever thought there was anything we couldn’t do (except play sports with any degree of competence), so she taught me to read when I was four years old, and my curiosity took flight.

Photo: Newbury College
“In my mind I’m going to Carolina.” This isn’t Robin’s driveway, but it’s my concept of deep woods. (Photo: Newbury College website)

We lived in the coun’ry (yes, you read that right), so far back in the sticks that they had to pump in sunshine, between a small town and a village. We rarely went anywhere outside of the Carolinas. It was so boring that in the summer I would meet our mail carrier, Mr. Lee, every day by the mailbox, just to see a new face. But in books I traveled to fantastic places, met beautiful heroines, and enjoyed dastardly villains.

I read everything I could get my hands on, so Mother put the books I was allowed to read on lower shelves. The upper part of the bookcase held books that she would give me as I became old enough for the subject matter. She loved Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Dorothy Eden, so I learned to love Gothic romances.

Robin Helm
Meet Robin Helm

When my elder siblings brought home books they were assigned to read, I read them, too. (Gayle was the only one who actually read the books assigned to her, so I had to wait until she finished hers.) I had an early introduction to A Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables, Far from the Madding Crowd, Silas Marner, Great Expectations, Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, Pride and Prejudice, Adam Bede, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Grapes of Wrath, the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, and many other books. When I reached high school, I sought out other books by those authors, particularly Austen, Dickens, and Hardy.

There was always work to do in a family of six children, so finding time to read was a challenge. If Mother saw me reading, she would give me a job to do, so I learned to hide in an upstairs closet. My mother was highly intelligent, so I’m surprised she never found my secret reading place. I would spend an entire afternoon happily going to England, Ireland, France, Spain, and Scotland, in addition to exotic places. I was that kid who got books for Christmas and was happy about it. The Five Little Peppers, Elsie Dinsmore, and The Little House on the Prairie characters were my buddies.

Jaws ensured that I never swam in the ocean again.

My father enjoyed “Star Trek,” “Lost in Space,” “The Outer Limits,” and “The Twilight Zone.” Though I confess that as a very young child, just the music of the latter two sent me scurrying under the bed, as I grew a little older, I found that I truly enjoyed them. By the time I was in college, Star Wars was a huge deal, and I still love every minute of those movies.

The first of Robin's Yours By Design series
The first volume in Robin’s Yours By Design trilogy

In the 80’s, Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness introduced me to Christian fantasy. I also read most of the works of Ted Dekker, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The movies Blade Runner and The Fifth Element added to my love of sci-fi and fantasy. I own all the Hunger Games, Twilight, and Divergent movies, too, though I thought the books were better. Ender’s Game is the only book I ever read that truly surprised me at the end.

I also love everything Marvel, from The Transformers to The Avengers. After all, I was named for a comic book character – Batman’s sidekick, Robin.

Robin's Guardian trilogy
Robin’s Guardian trilogy (Kindle edition) is on sale

My books always contain a supernatural or paranormal element. The Guardian Trilogy (Guardian, SoulFire, and Legacy) explores the juxtaposition of the physical and spiritual world, featuring angels and demons among humans. The Yours by Design series (Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours) employs a time switch between Regency Fitzwilliam Darcy and twenty-first century Will Darcy.


Robin blogs with me at Jane Started It! (Robin has Tuesdays, Susan Kaye has Wednesdays, and I take Saturdays.) At the moment Robin is working on a lighthearted Regency–I suspect she must chortle as she writes! You can find her books on her Amazon page.

Day 18: Sing that book!

Photo: Joe Shlabotnik (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik (Creative Commons Flickr)

The spirit, message, and energy of my books captured in song? Well, sure. I can do that.

In other words, the sweep and swing of falling in love as expressed in music. How about from the guy’s point of view?

For Mercy’s Embrace’s Admiral McGillvary, here is the joyous Everything.

And for Darcy By Any Other Name, They All Laughed captures Darcy’s ‘she loves me against all odds’ feeling of wonder.

That’s it for today! For tomorrow, an interview with a bibliophile.

Day 17: Shaking my head, smiling

Photo: Stephen Depolo (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Stephen Depolo (Creative Commons Flickr)

Surprises? Along the way there have been a few. Like the cover of my third book printing out as gray, not the blue you see displayed on the sidebar image. “Oh well,” said the designer. “Oh well,” said the publisher.

A friend made up a song: “Sell…gray books in cyber space,” he sang. “And put on a happy face.” So that’s what I did. The gray color really doesn’t matter.

And then there were the awesome surprises revealed by Google. A routine search brought up reviews of my books. Not on Amazon, but on blogs!

Blogs? Yes, book review blogs were new in those days. (And 2010 wasn’t all that long ago!) These dear reviewers bought my books and then wrote about them: Alexa (First Impressions) and Meredith (Austenesque Reviews), and Jane (Reading, Writing, Working, Playing), and Chautona (Paradoxology). I remember sitting there just staring at the screen. Talk about shock and awe!

I must also add my cousins to the list–who read my books and liked them. Okay, so my mom sent them copies, but still. (I begged her not to, but did she listen?)

Here I am, “Little Cousin Laura”

You have to understand a few things about my extended family:

  • They’re successful (most are entrepreneurs)
  • They have traveled extensively
  • They were educated at top-drawer schools
  • They’re good-looking
  • Most are athletic

I have been in awe of these literate, attractive, well-to-do people since I was a girl. Never did these older cousins put me down or act condescendingly–it’s just that they were just so successful. And I was so, you know,  ordinary.

And they liked my books. Along with a bunch of other people. Who would have thought? I’m shaking my head and smiling, yes.

Would you like to see what the other challenge authors are blogging about? You can find their blogs here.

Day 16: Sometimes even coffee can’t help!

The most challenging part of my book process is also the most basic: the writing of it. Words from my creative mind to the page–yeah, that’s the hardest. It all comes down to time, and to produce a book I cannot rely on summer breaks only. I must write during the school year.

Photo: dfactory (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: dfactory (Creative Commons Flickr)

It’s either 4:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m., pick my poison. Yes, I am a morning person–without an alarm I wake up at 5:00 a.m., don’t hate me!

Even so, there’s early and then there’s insanity. No way can I write at four in the morning!

So it’s after school or during school. Yes, sometimes I write alongside my high school students,  using the ten-minute free write for blog posts and chapter ideas–and those ever-growing lists of stuff to be done. Their faces at the beginning of the year, when I hold up last year’s word-filled notebook (the same kind as theirs) and flip through the pages! A study in wonder. “I’ve worked in here to the timer, same as you,” I tell them. “And I’ve pulled from my creative mind chapters of material. Right at this table.”

The remainder of the process–editing, formatting, promotion–can be boiled down to tasks. Things to be done, which don’t involve filling blank pages with creative thought. (Well, unless it’s a bio!) When I have enough books in my “stable,” perhaps some of these can be hired out.

Five minutes to go! The remaining two chapters of Darcy By Any Other Name are scheduled for my after-school time, so I’m being strict about blogging before school. I’ll be signing off and heading up to audio-visual storage to snag a projector for writing class. Otherwise my high school students will be huddled around my laptop.

Thanks for stopping by. Oh, and Happy Monday!