The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What to Expect During Bookstore Signings

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The layout, set-up and culture of each bookstore is different--even with bookstore chains that are supposed to be similar. I've had bookstores put me over in a corner, in the back of the store, in the front, in the children's section (I'm not kidding and I don't write children's books). As an author, you never know what to expect when you arrive at a book signing. My advice is to be prepared for anything! Be good-natured about it and keep smiling-no matter what.

There are a few things you can do to make the experience more enjoyable, to pick up sales now and in the future, and to pass the time quickly.

Before the Book Signing
Once you have the book signing date set, ask the bookstore if they would like a couple of posters and bookmarks. They will want to advertise the event and you can suggest they put the bookmarks in consumers' bags a few weeks prior to your event. I haven't had a bookstore turn down these offers. Most seem very glad and thankful. Mail them out ASAP.

Large Book Signings
If you're having a book launch where you know several people will be in attendance such as in your current city of residence or hometown where you will have family, co-workers and church member support, the bookstore may set up a long table, a podium for you to speak from and several chairs for people. You can ask the bookstore if you may serve coffee, tea, snacks or candy. Barnes & Noble did this for me.

Even if it is a small book signing, you can always set out some candies and other little goodies to draw people's attention. I put out bookmarks, postcards, magnets, business cards, etc.

Small Book Signings
However, if you are going to a city where you don't know many people, you will most likely have a small table and a chair. You may be put in a corner or in the back. You will be dependent upon the foot traffic that enters the store for sales and building awareness. These are small book signings and they occur more often than the large ones.

Most stores provide a table cloth for you. I haven't had to provide my own table cloth inside a bookstore yet. I have purchased a short banner of about 3 feet. I set it inside a frame. The first frame was of glass. A bookstore set me in the children's section in the back and one of the children back there knocked it over on my head and busted glass everywhere. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Off I went to buy another frame--this time one made of plastic!

If people are walking by and look like they are avoiding you, offer them free bookmarks. They rarely turn free things down. Sometimes they smile and keep going, others will take that as an opportunity to stop and talk. Then you'll get a chance to tell them about your book. Try not to be pushy, but offer the information they request.

I have had people ask me where they can find the latest Karen Kingsbury book. I simply tried to help. We found it and she was very happy. No, she didn't ask me about my book, nor did she even glance at Highland Blessings that I noticed, but I take comfort in knowing that I helped out Karen Kingsbury and maybe some day another author will help someone find my book. It's all about pushing Christian fiction and getting God's stories out there regardless of who writes them.

This hasn't happened to me, but other authors have been asked where the restroom is located. Be polite. Tell them if you know. If you don't know, point them to a staff person. 

After the Book Signing
If you don't sell all the books--and most of the time--you won't, simply ask if you can sign five copies and leave them for the shelf. Most bookstores will be happy to allow you to do this. If you don't have a "signed by author" sticker, place a bookmark in the ones you've signed and be sure to let the bookstore know which ones are signed. The other books may be returned to your publisher, but most likely these won't. It will ensure you some shelf space once you leave.

Be sure to leave your business card with the bookstore manager or event coordinator and tell them to contact you if they plan any special events. Sometimes it's better to piggy-back off the success of another event that will draw more people into the store. 


Friday, June 25, 2010

Medieval Weights and Measurements

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Weights and measurements were not always standard from town to town. Some merchants had to customize various portions based on what the local buyers expected. The local officials often received complaints from buyers who thought a merchant had cheated them. For this reason, it was not uncommon for a local official or the guilds to keep standard weights and measurements made of stone and metal under lock and key. Copies were then made and handed out to merchants for use.

Common Measurements
Acre = one furlong by 4 rods
Barrel = 30-32 gallons           Hand = 4 inches 
Bushel = 8 gallons                  Hogshead = 2 barrels
Cubit = 18 inches                   League = 3 miles (hr walk)
Drams = 60 grains                 Noggin = 1/4 pint
Fathom = 5 1/2 yards            Pace = 2 1/2 feet
Firkin = 1/4 barrel                  Palm = 3 inches
Fortnight = 2 weeks               Peck = 2 gallons
Furlong = 220 yards              Pole = 6 feet
Gill = 1/4 pint                          Sennight = 1 week
Yard = 3 feet                          Rod = 20 "natural feet"
Score = 20 years                  Decade = 10 years
Ell = Elbow length, about 45 inches & used for measuring clothing

Weight Measurements                       
Clove = 7-10 pounds           Kip = 1/2 ton
Fardel = 4 cloves                 Pennyweight = 24 grains
Firkin = 56 pounds               Pound = 317 1/3 grams
Stone = 14 pounds              Ton = 2,240 pounds
Pound = 16 ounces             Ounce - 16 drams
Scruple = 20 grains
Hundredweight = 112 pounds
Grain = .00001736 of a pound

Sources
The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Middle Ages by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tips on Setting Up Bookstore Signings

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The culture of each book store is very different. Some require you to go through their outreach coordinator at their corporate office, while others only require getting in touch with the local manager. Some will want you to provide posters and promotional material ahead of time, others will request an electronic file and print banners and posters for you. Be open-minded and prepared for anything. Do whatever they ask.


Why You Need to Set Up Book Signings


You may be thinking, I'm a new debut author, why do I need to set up book signings when no one knows who I am? Or I've had several book signings and it's always the same old thing, sitting at a table where no one shows up and I sell only a handful of copies. It seems like a waste of time. 

Even if you can't bring in tons of people like John Grisham or Nora Roberts, you CAN gain a couple of readers from the the store's foot-traffic, and as an unknown author, that's your goal. Holding a book signing forces bookstores to buy copies of your book that they otherwise wouldn't buy. Even if you don't sell all of them, you can sign a few of them and then they can't send them back. You are guaranteed a couple of copies on their shelves, thereby, giving your books time to sell--a chance. It's much better than having them sit in a warehouse somewhere with no chance to sell at all.

Every book signing does increase awareness about you and your books. People may not buy your book that day, but they might be interested enough to check you out later. The more they hear about you, the more they will be willing to try your second, third or fourth book. Studies show that the average consumer doesn't buy a product on the first few times of hearing about it. They buy on the ninth and tenth times of hearing about a product. It's branding and impressions. Persistence is the key in achieving anything.


Making the Initial Contact
Do an online search of book tores in the area you'd like to hold a book signing and call those bookstores. Ask who you would need to speak to in order to set up a book signing. Be prepared to give them the ISBN number of your book, the release date, your publisher, and which distributors will be carrying your book. You can find this out from your publisher.


You may get a chance to talk directly to the manager or store event coordinator or you may be requested to leave a message or to call back at a different time. If you are asked to leave a message, don't expect anyone to call back. I'm learning they rarely return calls, even in Christian bookstores. Be prepared to call them back again, and again, and again. You will play phone tag, you will leave additional messages, you may get discouraged, but don't give up.


If you get a chance to speak to the right person, they may out-right ask you if you can draw in a lot of people/traffic. Be honest. Tell them you will try your best. Offer to promote the event ahead of time, to send out flyers, to send posters to their store, bookmarks to hand out with purchases. They may ask if you plan to promote to the media. Again, be honest. Tell them you will try to contact media. Don't make a promise you can't keep. You can send out the best well-written media release ever created, but that doesn't mean a radio, newspaper, or TV station is going to print it or air it. All you can promise is that you will make the effort.


Don't be embarrassed if you are trying to set up a book signing in a city where you don't know a soul. The idea is to meet people you don't know so they can hear about you and your book. If you really believe you can't sell 50 copies of your novel, ask them to only order 15-20 books. The bookstore will appreciate your honesty. It will save them shipping costs in not having to send back the books you don't sell. Offer to bring extra. The bookstore can always reimburse you for your own copies or send you books to replace any of your own you had to use. Make sure you work out an arrangement with the manager beforehand. 


Some bookstores will ask you to email some information about your book to them. Send a brief bio and author photo, book title and blurb on your book, the book cover, ISBN number, and a link to your blog or website. Again, don't expect a response. Email makes it easy for people to ignore you, forget about you, and emails go into spam folders, and get lost in cyberspace. Wait a week and follow-up with a phone call, or two, or three. If you receive a response from your email, count it as a blessing. Some who have requested I send emails to them have yet to respond.


Out of Town Book Signings
Before setting up a book signing with a store out of town, be sure to calculate the driving time, if you will need lodging, gas mileage, eats, all other associated expenses. Stay within your budget, and if you have a tight budget, don't fly all over the place, stay within driving distance where possible. Combine vacations, family reunions, kids' sporting events, and other outings with book signings. Make every personal and family event a book signing opportunity. Keep your book signings to no more than two hours. This gives your family members a chance to go see a movie, attend a ball game, do some shopping, and entertain themselves while you promote your book. It's only two hours out of an entire vacation, but make sure you give your family time without your laptop, Blackberry, or Droid in your hands.

It may seem like you aren't getting a return on your investment (ROI), but keep in mind that you are investing in future books you haven't yet written by making the first impression on potential buyers who need to hear about you at least ten times before they buy. You are building a platform and a writing career, if you happen to make sales in the meantime, those are added bonuses--a short milestone to give you inspiration and to help you keep going. We don't always see the impact we are making in people's lives, the seeds we are planting for God's glory, but something is always happening--even if you don't know it. Just get out there and try. Give God something to work with. 


Monday, June 07, 2010

The Value of Memoirs & Journals to Fiction Authors

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Whether you are writing contemporary or historical, it is important to have the appropriate culture of the setting in your book. If you are writing about a small southern town in Georgia, the environment and the people will be much different than a small northern town in New Jersey or a small western town in Oregon. This is even more true for novels set in other countries with language differences and deeply rooted cultures. 

If you are writing historical, you will also need to consider the changes in culture of your setting, depending on your time period. Specific events, sweeping political movements, pandemics, so many things could have changed an area in the span of only a few years. 

Certain resources are only going to tell you basic facts. For example, encyclopedias, articles, and history books tend to provide a brief summary on the history of when a place was founded, people, location, climate, well known events, and famous people in the area. It will not provide details on what was/is their culture. What do people do on a hot Sunday afternoon? On a cold blistery weekday? What kind of foods do they serve? I can guarantee sweet tea is available in most states below Virginia, but you'll be hard pressed to find in many states above the Virginia line. You won't find this detail in an encyclopedia or on most reference sites. What other details like this could be common knowledge to the locals in the setting you're writing about, but not necessarily common knowledge to you?

My advice is to find some memoirs, journals, and published diaries from some locals in the area where you've set your book. It might even be helpful to find published letters. Yes, most of these are typically historical documents, but they could serve as some great background to your contemporary elderly characters. Maybe your younger characters were raised by a strict Catholic or Baptist who made your heroine or hero hate rules. Your contemporary character could reminisce about his/her childhood days. A character's background makes them who they are in your book, just like in real life. It provides motivation for their behavior and actions. Best of all, it provides authenticity that you won't find in most reference books.

If you're writing historical, the things you discover could be your characters' world. Old journals, memoirs and diaries reveal private, everyday life that you won't find in a history book. It's the details between the lines of fact. It's where the real stories are and it provides kindling for your fiction.

So where do you find these memoirs, journals, published letters and diaries? 

Local Libraries
You might find a few of them in the local library, but it won't be in the typical historical reference section. You need to go to the genealogy section. That's where you will find handwritten, manual typed references that people have written themselves and contributed to preserve the local history of the area. Families whose elderly have passed on find things in attics and basements, and they contribute them to libraries and historical societies. 

Local Historical Societies
Look on the local historical society website as some provide listed references of local and historical documents that they have transcribed themselves. Sometimes they sell these references to help raise money for their society. They preserve homes and buildings in local areas and restore them to look as they did in their prime. Often, they offer tours, to help raise funds to keep up these sites.

Genealogy Societies 
A few genealogy societies and amateur genealogists provide scanned images of documents or transcriptions on their personal genealogy websites. Other places they upload their info include: 
www.rootsweb.com
www.ancestry.com
www.cyndislist.com
www.genealogy.com
Please note: Rootsweb was a free service that Ancestry purchased a few years ago. Most of the info on Rootsweb is supposed to be free, but Ancestry is not free.

Blogs and Websites
For some, modern journals are blogs. Local blogs and editorials can provide some great details that you won't find anywhere else. Look for blogs by local historians, museums, newspapers that feature specific themes, culturally based blogs in the location you're researching. Avoid blogs where people try to conceal their location and blog about coupons or contests. Before reading blog posts, check out their links and page themes so you don't waste time on a blog that won't provide what you're looking for.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Highland Sanctuary Has Sold!

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It's official! This week I signed the contract on Highland Sanctuary with Abingdon Press, the sequel to Highland Blessings, set to be released in October 2011! 


For those of you who met Gavin MacKenzie in Highland Blessings, now you get a chance to read his story and meet the grownup, Leith MacKenzie. A new heroine is introduced as Serena Boyd, a lass I have modeled after my own daughter. It's three years after Highland Blessings.

Highland Sanctuary, Scotland 1477
Gavin MacKenzie is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh. He discovers a hidden village of outcasts that have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and comely lass who captures Gavin’s heart. The villagers have an intriguing secret, while Serena harbors a deadly past that could destroy her future. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.