Maggie Pill

The Most Entertaining Cozy Author You Never Heard Of!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Where's the Next One????
Lots of places I go, I hear, "When's the next Sleuth Sisters book coming out?" (I also hear, "Who's Maggie Pill?" but that's a topic for another day.)

As to the where, it's in my head, and I'm hoping it's like cheese, getting sharper with age. As to the when, sometime in 2019 if my cheese-head comes together as it should.

I say "cheese-head" because the book is set in Green Bay, WI, the home of the Packers and many, many cheese-heads. I've always liked the Packers, a team that's different from all the others in that the fans own it. I was with them in their down years, and there was a time I could probably have named all the starters. The only time my loyalties are tested is when they play Detroit, my home-state team.

So the sisters will travel to Green Bay. I know why. I know the crime and the bad guys who must be caught. I know the season and the subplots and where the dogs are going to be.

All I don't know is how to make the story lie down on the pages. But it will.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

News Flash: Books Don't Just Sell Themselves

A version of this post originally ran on the Hometown Authors site on October 9, 2018

You wrote a book. Hooray! Now comes selling the book. Let's talk about that.
If you go traditional, your publisher will do some of the work needed to sell your book. My (now former) publisher arranged reviews, announced the book’s release to libraries, and featured it on their website. I learned I was expected to help get the word out, which back then was a surprise. I thought books sort of sold themselves.
It takes effort to get a book noticed, and whether you publish independently, traditionally, or somewhere in the middle, you're the one who cares most about your work. You can pay people to promote for you, but that’s expensive and often doesn’t result in the sales authors hope for. You can promote for yourself, choosing how much time and effort you want to put into it. Here are a few ways that can happen.
Book tours: Authors do tours so they can talk about their books to audiences. These can be virtual or physical. The author sets up dates and places where readers go to hear about the book and learn about the person who wrote it. Since people seldom flock to live author events, I developed a talk for libraries focused on mysteries in general. I highlight the work of others in the genre while tossing in mention of my own books, like Not Dead Yet…. Audiences respond well, since it isn’t an hour of BSP (That’s Blatant Self-Promotion, the reason some authors fail at live events. “Buy my book—it’s great!” is not a good sales technique.)
Advertising: Authors pay newspapers, magazines, websites, etc., for ad space to get their book in front of readers' eyes. With thousands of new books published every month, markets are extremely competitive. Barnum's rule of seven (the number of times we hear/see something before we take action) reminds authors we can't just have a book-launch party and be done. Promotion is an all-the-time thing, which is irritating when you'd rather be writing. There are free sites that list books for readers, usually by genre, and they can be really helpful, but the problem is rising above the crowd. If a reader sees thirty books of the same genre on a given day, what makes that person choose your book over the other twenty-nine? (That leads to talk of blurbs and cover art, but let’s leave that for another day.)
Reviews: Studies show people most often buy a book because someone recommended it. That means authors have to get people talking about their books: librarians, bookstore owners, reviewers, and of course readers. Good reviews are nice for the ego, but people look at the number of reviews as well. It’s a safe bet that anything under ten Amazon reviews means only an author’s friends and relatives have read the book (and some probably just said they did).
Giveaways: This one is controversial, since some feel it devalues authors’ hard work to give books away. While the work I do to make a book as good as possible is substantial, I’m realistic. Without a big publisher backing me these days, I need to give readers a reason to take a chance on me. Once the second book of a series is ready, I give away the first book (like The Sleuth Sisters, written as Maggie Pill) for several days. Later in the series, I make that first book permanently free. It’s a gamble, and sometimes thousands of free downloads each month seem like lost revenue. But readers might have scrolled right by a book with a price tag, and if Book #1 is a hit, #2 will see an uptick in sales.
For me, promotion is much less fun than writing. Still, I never wanted to be that author who writes only for the people who love me too much to care if I’m any good. I have confidence in my writing ability, but I have to keep working in terms of promotion. If you want to succeed, you should do the same. As I said at the start, books don’t sell themselves.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Check Your Reading

Image result for cartoon images books Image result for cartoon images books
Readers are smart people. We know that. Reading almost anything makes you learn things, even if they're not massively important things. Non-fiction is the most reliable source for learning, although you have to be careful whose nonfiction it is. Recent studies showed that reading fiction make a person more empathetic, presumably because you frequently put yourself in the place--even inside the head--of others and see life from viewpoints other than your own. (I enjoy writing the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries for that very reason: I have to think like each sister in order to tell the story the way she would see it.)

We develop habits over time with our reading, and that's both good and bad. If you always read one genre and even one sub-genre, sooner or later you're going to end up in a rut. I've gone through quite a few phases in my lifetime. For a while I read lots of biographies and autobiographies. Then I read almost exclusively historical fiction. Now I read mostly mystery. A few years back I was forced to branch out, since I read aloud to someone who could no longer read for herself. That meant scientific stuff I'd never have chosen, Hollywood biographies (again, not my style), and sci-fi/fantasy like The Hunger Games and Twilight (waaaaay down my list of worthwhile reading).

I won't say the time was wasted. I learned a lot about astrophysics, brain research, and what most of America is reading. I doubt I'll go back to YA adventure anytime soon, but I do regularly buy something on the scientific spectrum now, because it's interesting.

So ask yourself: Am I in a reading rut? Have I read outside my genre in the last few months?
If not, it might be beneficial. It might be educational. It might even be fun.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Evolution of Book #7

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There was some concern after PERIL, PLOTS, and PUPPIES came out that the Sleuth Sisters series was finished, and to be honest, I wasn't sure myself. I've said many times that I don't want to write the next book just because. I need a story that I want to tell, because it's very hard work to write a book (at least one people will want to read).

Sister anecdotes can go on forever, of course. There's always fodder for more humor in the way we interact with each other.

Cute animal items are also easy to come up with. The fact that the real-life Styx almost broke my leg last week while trying to tell me he was glad to see me demonstrates that.

Setting can become a problem in a series; call it the Cabot Cove Syndrome. How many murders can a small town expect? I felt that if there was a Book 7, it should take place somewhere else. Series writers will admit that after a few books it's also difficult to get all the secondary characters in if the characters remain in their small town. Readers have their favorites and want to know what's up with (for example) Gabe, Mindy, Rory, Lars, Dale, Cramer, Bill & family, etc. Not to mention all the pets!

And for me, character isn't enough in a mystery. I have to have an intriguing puzzle for the sisters to work on. Sometimes I don't know how it will work out at first, but gradually the plot forms. Writing it down is another matter, and there's the rub. It's NEVER as easy as it seems in my head to get all the pieces in the right place at the right time. The next mystery has begun to spin its web, thanks to a suggestion from my sister (who else?).

The other question I've been asked after PP&P is about Barb's Grammar Nazi role. My husband came up with an idea for that, and I think it will resonate with all those who silently cheered for her as she corrected grammatical mistakes in public places.
All in all, I think Book 7 is a go. Image result for cartoons of getting an idea
Now all I need is the time to write it.

Monday, July 30, 2018


Now available as an audio book here:
or on Audible if you do things that way:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Listening Days

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Judy Blue, who reads Retta

I received the files for PERIL, PLOTS, and PUPPIES from Audible on Friday. Since I had an event on Saturday, I couldn't start listening until Sunday morning. I plan to do about 2 hours/day until it's done, so I'm currently on Chapter 30. I thought I'd tell you how it goes.

Once a book is released in e-book and/or print, the author or publisher can contract for audio. Generally you can pay up front or share revenue, and costs for narrators run a large gamut. You submit the book for auditions and choose from those you receive. You make an offer, and if you're lucky, the narrator accepts.

The studio in Chicago that does the Sleuth Sisters books hires three actors to read the three parts: Barb, Faye, and Retta. They've been the same for the first five books, but on this one they replaced Faye. I listened to the audition and agreed they'd found a good voice for her. Once that was done they went ahead and read, each woman reading her chapters as she finds time to come in to the studio. When they're done, the tech has to put the chapters in order and make sure the book flows smoothly together. When the studio says it's ready, they submit to Audible, who lets me know it's time for me to okay the book.
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Anne Jacques, who reads Barb

My job at this point is to check everything. I have to listen attentively for mistakes in line-reading, pronunciation, or what I'd call "emotion," the actor's interpretation of the situation and character. Usually it's little things I find, but in one instance (with a different book/narrator) I found that the narrator had inadvertently skipped a that would have been weird!

It's important to get it right the first time with audio books, because they're harder to fix than e-books or even printed work. I try to carve out a chunk of time where I won't be interrupted, and I have to concentrate. That means 9 hours in my office with no other activity that might distract me. The result is that my office gets really clean and neat on those days, because cleaning isn't mentally distracting. I guess that's a good thing...

Once I'm done, hopefully tomorrow, I okay the audio book to Audible. It takes them a week or two to check the files for technical problems and release the book, first to Audible and soon afterward to Amazon.

Liz Cloud, the new Faye