Friday, January 15, 2010

Ask Publicists Linda and Jim O'Connor

I am delighted to have O'Connor Communications to address a few of questions about the pursuit of publicity for our books. This is the first of five blogs on the subject.

Lynda O’Connor is a principal of O’Connor Communications and takes the lead in book publicity activities. She and Jim O'Connor represent 23 authors, organizing national and regional book campaigns, book tours, media interviews, speaking engagements, media training, special events, and press materials. The couple won three national awards for the best book publicity in the country. Authors Lynda has represented describe her as "knowledgeable, professional, tireless, tenacious, creative, enthusiastic and dedicated". Both O'Connors work closely with their clients and makes sure they get the attention that they deserve. Lynda and Jim go across the country, speaking at writers’ conferences on How to Launch your Book through Powerful Publicity and Marketing. Visit for information on the books O'Connor Communications have publicized and for the endorsements from their authors.

Lynda, welcome, and thank you for agreeing to give authors some information and guidance about marketing.

Why does an author need public relations? 

We all dream that the publisher will promote our book. The reality is that in YOUR BOOK PROPOSAL, you have to tell the publisher how you will promote your book. Publishers publish hundreds of books a year, and they just don't have the time or staff to to devote to any one book. Yes, it you are Scott Turow, Sue Grafton, or James Patterson, the publisher will get behind you and promote you like heck because they know your book will sell, but if you are still unknown, they won't put the muscle behind you. It should be the opposite - the publisher should promote an unknown, but that is not how it works.
Public relations will get you in the news. It gets your message to your audience and informs them who you are and what you are writing about. Through interviews in newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and the internet, you can discuss what your book is about and why it is important to read.

What is the difference between public relations and advertising?
Advertising is great. It assures that you will be in a certain publication on the date that you want it. You pay the publication a lot of money and it is a sure thing. However, everyone knows that you paid for this and many people don't read ads. Ads are not news.
Public relations involves news. PR is considered a highly credible form of promotion because one cannot pay an editor or publication to be in that publication. Only if the media outlet likes the story and thinks it is relevant to its readers/listeners will they put it in the news. It is a third party endorsement of you as an author. Public relations is the cultivation of positive ideas about a person or product through a variety of communications channels and tools -TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, blogs and the internet. It builds awareness and a favorable image through stories in media outlets, and it enhances and manages the reputation by putting the client in the most favorable light.
A well -structured PR campaign can result in the author being exposed to more detailed information than they receive with an ad. A feature story in a newspaper can tell a lot more about an author than can an ad.
PR is a lot less expensive than advertising.
The disadvantage of PR is that you don't have direct control over your message. You can't tell the reporter what to say so that your message may not be precisely what you planned. Also, there is always a chance that your release will get "bumped" from planned media coverage because of a breaking news story like a war or severe weather.

Is it scary being in the news?
The worst part of being in the news is thinking about it. The anticipation of it is the worst. If you prepare properly, then you will be OK. Once you begin your interview, you will love it and will become addicted to it. It is an amazing high and you will have the time of your life with it. After you have been exposed to the media. you will want to do more and more interviews and they will get easier with each appearance.

How do we prepare for our appearances?
Put together a media kit - a professional photo of you, a photo of your book cover, your biography, a summary of your book, a testimonial from someone well known who has read your book, and other media which has covered your book already. Have this in email format as well as hard copies.
Send the kit and your book to the producer of the show a few weeks before your interview. Follow-up with the producer to make sure he has all the material he needs.
Before you go on the air, practice. Ask a friend to play radio with you so that you can give great sound bites and advice. Listen to yourself and see if you are pacing yourself properly. Are you talking too fast or too slow?
In the beginning, listen to the show you are supposed to go on. What is the name of the host who will interview you? Make sure you address him by name when he interviews you so that it seems that you are friends. See what questions the host throws out. Does he go for the laughs? Is the show in a serious vein or more fun? You will feel more comfortable if you know the slant of the show.

How can we leverage our media coverage?
Follow - up and analyze your interview. Watch and listen to what you said. How did you do on the air? Did you say, "ahhh" too much? did you talk to fast? Were you boring? Did you say the name of your host? Did you make is sound like you were buddies? Were you funny and informative? Think about how you could have done better and improve next time.
Make sure you write a thank you note to the producer and ask him if he can recommend you to other producers.
Send out a notice to your friends that you will appear on the show. Put your appearance on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook.
When you pitch other shows, tell them that you have been covered by other media.

Lynda and Jim will tackle another topic on Jan. 17th. Please drop by and let us know if your questions are being answered. Feel free to leave comments and questions for the O'Connors to help you with your publicity efforts.
Contact Information:

Lynda O'Connor, Principal
333 Warwick Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045
Phone: (847) 615-5462 , Fax: (847) 615-5465

Find on Speaker Site, Linked in, Facebook, Twitter


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Keith Pyeatt's Horrors With Heart

My guest today is Keith Pyeatt. Keith, welcome to the blog. Please tell us about yourself.
I was a mild-mannered mechanical engineer when I designed and built a simple log cabin on the side of a mountain in rural northeastern Vermont. After two years in my isolated cabin, I began writing horror novels. After ten years, I left my engineering career behind and moved to Albuquerque to focus on writing and freelance editing. Now I've been writing novels for 14 years. I'm working on my sixth novel, and I recently had two novels published.
My novels blend genres in different proportions, but they all have a paranormal element and plenty of psychological and physical tension. I refer to my novels as "Horror with Heart" because I force my characters to look deep inside themselves and find their very best before they can save the day.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I was a manager at an electric utility in Vermont, and my assistant challenged me to write a short story. The only requirement was that the good guys had to win. She wrote a fun and clever story, a couple pages long. A novel came gushing out of me. I wrote it on weekends and evenings in three weeks, and it's a tongue-and-cheek horror novel called Confusion. I didn't know what I was doing when I wrote it, and I've never returned to it now that I do, but it holds a special place in my heart. It hooked me on writing.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
I write to entertain. My goal is to write novels readers can't put down. I want to flash images and situations into my readers' minds so they can submerge themselves in my stories and enjoy the read. I want my readers to feel the emotions my characters experience, but I also want to evoke emotions from my readers.
There are messages in my novels, often carried by themes that play out throughout the novels. Struck carries a theme about the understated power of acceptance, for example. Two major themes play out in Dark Knowledge, one about how good and bad often can't be separated and another about how winning great prizes requires great effort.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? If you have written both, which one do you prefer?
I had two novels published in '09. Both are stand alone novels, but I could write a sequel for either if the mood hits.
Struck is a paranormal suspense novel set in Albuquerque, a fictional pueblo, and the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. When the main character, Barry, is struck by lightning, it's more than an act of nature. It's a calling. Earth's fate is now tied to Barry's, and Barry's destiny is linked to the past.
Dark Knowledge is a paranormal thriller that might be described as Flowers for Algernon with a Dean Koontz twist. A mentally challenged man named Wesley can't resist a gift of knowledge, but it comes with a dark destiny. Now Wesley must fight to survive, piece together his heritage, and weigh the value of his soul against the fate of mankind.

What’s the hook for the book?
In Struck, the earth will lose its ability to sustain life unless our easy-going hero understands and accepts his role as warrior, joins forces with a Native American elder, and overcomes massive obstacles before the equinox.
In Dark Knowledge, Satan wants a stronger foothold on earth. Mankind's fate rests on a mentally challenged man who must fight for his life in two worlds, grasp the concept that good and evil can't always be separated, and use that concept to save his soul.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
I give my characters strengths, flaws, quirks, and room to grow. Then I start writing. They become real to me early in the first draft but may continue changing even near the end. I don't worry if their nature changes during the first draft. Making characters consistent is just one of the many things revisions are for.
For settings, I use what works for the novel. Struck is very much tied to New Mexico. The settings in Albuquerque, a Native American pueblo, and Chaco Canyon not only season the novel, the whole premise of Struck comes from New Mexico history and culture. Dark Knowledge uses very different settings, but they also help establish the mood of the novel. It's set in a group home for mentally challenged men and women and a bizarre, threatening, and ever-changing world that exists inside the main character's mind.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
In Struck, Barry is a kind, compassionate man. He's too easy-going for his own good, especially when faced with the challenge of saving the earth.
In Dark Knowledge, Wesley is a sweet, strong, mentally challenged man with an amazing moral compass. Poor guy has a lot to deal with and overcome in the novel. He ignores his instincts a couple times, and each time pays a price.

How do you determine voice in your writing?
I write from the characters' point of view, so much of my voice comes from them. What carries through from me is word choice and conciseness. I write tight. I also concentrate on how prose flows, and I've been thrilled to see in my reviews the term "poetic."

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
One of my tricks is to create an in-progress outline as I write first draft. I summarize each scene after I write it. Doing so makes me focus on what happened, what was set up, and where the novel is going based on that one scene. As I progress, I can tell if I'm stagnating or stumbling ahead without proper motivation. Scenes that add little or repeat something already established stand out, and I'll either cut or refocus them in edits.
The finished outline is a big help during edits and also when it comes time to write a synopsis.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Interesting and tough question. My environment/upbringing colored me, and I color my writing, so the question goes to the core, my core. Anyone who reads my novels learns something about me, and the personal values revealed are a result of my environment and upbringing.

Have you started any online networks or blogs to promote yourself and others?
Online promotion is important, and I'm everywhere. At least it feels that way. I also send out a short newsletter every other month (there's a sign-up form on my blog). Here are a few places I have an online presence:

I also have an author page at both of my publishers' websites. I have a page at Goodreads, Author's Den, Amazon, MySpace, and Manic Readers.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
I drink. Ha. Actually, physical exercise is a huge help to me. I run four or five times a week and go to the gym to work out with weights four times a week. Exercise helps me unwind and gives me time to think about what I've written. I'm known at the gym for smiling my hellos but not talking. I'm always thinking about my characters or my novels. Unless I'm people watching, noticing interesting traits that might work their way into a character.

What are your current projects?
I'm excited about my work in progress. It's a dark fantasy/paranormal thriller. There's a parallel world and some really dark angles to contrast the light. I've had this project on hold for too long while I market unpublished novels and promote my newly published ones, but I'm finally returning to writing first draft, and it feels good.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Best places are my website,, and my blog, To sample my published novels, a great online venue is There are two chapters of both published novels posted there.

Keith, continued success with your writing. Thanks for the interview.
Great interview questions, Susan. Thank you for hosting me here. It was fun.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dawn Stephens Discusses The Little Pot

Author/illustrator Dawn Stephens gained her love for books as an elementary school teacher and as a mother of three daughters. She has helped several school systems develop curriculum and teaching material for state-tested standards in fun and developmentally appropriate ways. Convinced she would be a teacher forever, she found herself thrust into the business world. The Little Pot was written as Dawn tried to determine God’s plan for her own life. Just as the little pot was given task after task, Dawn found herself changing career paths and continually searching to understand their purpose in her life. Through serving God in many different capacities, she sees her true purpose is to bear “fruit” from whatever “The Potter” gives her.


How do you teach young children about the value of patience and the loving omniscience of their Creator? Introduce them to The Little Pot, a wise and winsome tale. Soon after a potter lovingly forms a new pot and declares that he has important plans for his creation, the little pot begins to wonder what its purpose will be. Will it be used to hold important documents? Great riches? Beautiful flowers? As various expectations prove wrong, the little pot is cautioned to wait and see. Gradually, Little Pot comes to realize that its creator knows best and has the most wonderful of all uses planned for it. Young readers will realize that the same is true for them: that, like the little pot, they were designed to be vessels that bear “fruit.” Anyone who has ever had trouble seeing God working in his or her life will realize that, while His work may not always be evident, it is always there. The author’s warm illustrations beautifully enhance this charming allegory about patience and fulfillment. A valuable teaching tool for parents and educators, The Little Pot is a simple yet profound story about inevitable reversals. Its timeless message will be enjoyed by many generations to come.
And if you’d like to see me doing an author visit, reading a few pages of the book, and talking about the idea behind the book here is that link -

Author/illustrator Dawn Stephens gained her love for books as an elementary school teacher and as a mother of three daughters. She has helped several school systems develop curriculum and teaching material for state-tested standards in fun and developmentally appropriate ways. Convinced she would be a teacher forever, she found herself thrust into the business world. The Little Pot was written as Dawn tried to determine God’s plan for her own life. Just as the little pot was given task after task, Dawn found herself changing career paths and continually searching to understand their purpose in her life. Through serving God in many different capacities, she sees her true purpose is to bear “fruit” from whatever “The Potter” gives her.

Dawn, when did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
The bug has always been there. I did it as a child and I’ve been writing and illustrating in every job and career I’ve ever held. I enjoy it most when the product is for children. – but I think adults like simple stories and illustrations tool.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp? At first I wrote just to be writing. As a teacher I created books that taught specific skills and objectives to my students. The Little Pot book was a result of my own journey to find purpose in all the different things I did in life and the things I “held.”

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? The book, The Little Pot, is the first in a series. It is about a vessel who tries to discover how it is suppose to be used by the potter. It goes from being a smart paper pot, to a rich coin pot, to a beautiful flower pot. It is continually filled and emptied, until it realizes that its true purpose is to be a fruit pot and bear fruit for the potter. The lesson I want kids (and adults) to get is that no matter what we hold in life, we are created to bear fruit. The second book is just about done and it is called The Tea Pot. In this story, the potter makes a new vessel, a tea pot. The tea pot and the little pot learn that they must serve others with their fruit and tea. Little Pot discovers that it can only bear fruit by serving and the tea pot discovers the potter can wash it and make it new like new.

What’s the hook for the book? I always ask kids if they know what they want to be when they grow up. Then, I tell them they should be a FRUIT POT!

How do you develop characters? Setting? The character of the potter developed from the Bible. Since the Bible uses a reference to God as a potter, it made sense to me that the other characters needed to be things the potter would create. The setting came as I tried to create a world that the pots would know. The potter’s hands seemed to be all we needed to know about the potter, because I wanted him to remain God-like. “High in the mountains” put the potter above and closer to heaven.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track? The things I learn in life serve as my plot. I do a lot of checking with other Christians and biblical scholars to see if my perceptions and ideas are correct. I don’t want to put something out there that would teach children falsely when it comes to biblical truths. The stories come to me as God works in my own life and teaches me things I need to learn about my purpose and how I am to serve others.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing? I was raised in church and knew even when I was young that I wanted to write stories and illustrate books for kids. It was a long journey to finally do it. God has and is such a big part of me that I can’t separate Him from my writing. The Little Pot can be enjoyed by people of different faiths, but for me it is the story of how God worked in my life.

What are your current projects? I’m working on the illustrations for The Tea Pot and developing more characters and adventures for future books. I also work a full time job marketing a book fair program. I write and develop themes for book fairs too.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

and Facebook
Dawn, these books are darlings. Continued success!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stacy Juba: 25 Years Ago

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today Synopsis: Obit writer and editorial assistant Kris Langley feels like the newsroom slave – that is, until she stumbles across an unsolved murder while compiling "25 Years Ago Today" items from the microfilm. Determined to launch her reporting career, Kris investigates the cold case of Diana Ferguson, an artistic young cocktail waitress obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology. She soon learns that old news never leaves the morgue and that yesterday's headline is tomorrow's danger, for finding out the truth about that night twenty-five years ago may shatter Kris’s present, costing her love, her career, and ultimately, her life.

Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. She is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New England Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New England Chapter’s Sword of Hope Media Award. Her young adult novel Face-Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was 18 years old. Her web site is 

Stacy, welcome to my blog.

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I wrote my first suspense thriller in third grade, and by fifth grade, I was writing a mystery series about a teenage amateur detective named Cathy Summers. I grew up reading Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden. Although Face-Off wasn’t a mystery, most of the writing I’ve done since childhood has been in the mystery genre.

Briefly tell us about Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. Series or stand-alone?
Twenty-Five Years Ago Today would appeal to both mystery fans and romantic suspense fans. For twenty-five years, Diana Ferguson’s killer has gotten away with murder. When rookie obit writer and newsroom editorial assistant Kris Langley investigates the cold case of the artistic young cocktail waitress who was obsessed with Greek and Roman mythology, she must fight to stay off the obituary page herself. Right now, I plan it as a stand-alone since I’m working on developing another series – but you never know!

What’s the hook for the book?
 The hook is a 25-year-old cold case dredged up from the microfilm. My protagonist, newsroom editorial assistant Kris Langley, compiles the “25 Years Ago Today” column as one of her responsibilities. While researching her column on the microfilm, she stumbles across an unsolved murder and becomes determined to solve it as a way of redeeming herself from a past mistake. Upon investigating, she opens a Pandora’s Box of secrets.

Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Dex Wagner, the 70-year-old editor-in-chief of the paper, is definitely the most unusual character in the book and readers tell me that they like him also. He wears rumpled suits, baseball caps and penguin-patterned ties, and the staff considers him eccentric. The publisher is looking for an excuse to get rid of him as he and the new managing editor – a workaholic Corporate Barbie – are always clashing. Although Dex is offbeat and a bit old-fashioned, he has good news sense and knows the communities in their readership area like the back of his hand. He acts as a mentor to the protagonist, Kris Langley. Dex represents how independent newspapers are being taken over by big-city corporations which often change the small-town lifeline of the paper. The corporations believe they are making improvements, but are they really? I’m not so sure.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
I’m not one of those laidback writers who can make it up as they go along. For my work-in-progress, I’m using a 10-page outline that maps out the main events in each chapter. I divide the outline into three acts: Act One is the book’s set-up, Act Two is the development of the crisis, and Act Three is the resolution. The outline isn’t written in stone, but it keeps me on track so I always know what scene to write next.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?
I always write in the third person and I usually stick to one narrator. Editors have called my style clear and evocative. Coming from a journalistic background, I don’t waste a lot of words and I rely on quotes (dialogue) to break up the text. In my books, you won’t go more than a few pages without seeing dialogue.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve even had.
I’m pleased with all of the reviews that Twenty-Five Years Ago Today has received, but I was particularly honored by this comment from Fran Lewis at “What do Diana’s studying and painting of Greek and Roman mythology have to do with the surprise ending? You will have to read this well crafted, well-researched and outstanding first novel of the newest mystery writer on the block, Stacy Juba. To the great mystery writers of the 21st century, make room for the author of this great book.”

What are your current projects?
Mainly Murder Press will publish my second mystery novel, Sink or Swim, in Fall 2010. Here’s a little synopsis: When reality TV turns to murder, it’s sink, swim or die. Not only has Cassidy Novak walked the plank and lost a hit action-adventure reality show set aboard a Tall Ship, she has also attracted a stalker who is masterminding his own twisted game. As her former competitors get knocked off one by one, Cassidy refuses to play by his bizarre rules. Soon, Cassidy must walk the plank once again – this time for her life. In addition, I’m polishing up a paranormal young adult thriller Dark Before Dawn, and I’m also working on a new adult mystery series. At some point, I’d like to bring back an updated edition of my young adult book Face-Off, so I’ll be approaching agents and publishers and researching different options down the line.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
They can visit for all of the latest book and event news. If they’d like to receive my e-mail newsletter 2-3 times per year, they can use the contact form to sign up for my mailing list. I also have a Reader’s Guide for book clubs on the web site, for clubs interested in discussing Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. In addition, I post news and updates on my Facebook page. If anyone is interested in following the page, it can be accessed at .

How to Buy the Book: Twenty-Five Years Ago Today is available for purchase at, Amazon and Barnes and It is also being carried in independent bookstores. If your local bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, they should be able to order it by the ISBN: 978-0-615-29011-9. More information is available at

Stacy, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope 2010 is a great year for your writing career.