Monthly Archives: March 2013

5 Things I’ve Learned from Book Signings

by Gail Z. Martin

As you read this, I’m making appearances in a lot of book stores and conventions for the launch of my new book, Ice Forged.  I like doing signings and readings, because they’re a nice change from the very quiet, deep-in-my-own-thoughts reality of writing.

Since signings are public appearances, they’re unpredictable.  You never know what’s going to happen.  Once, my signing got cut short because the mall was closing due to a large snowstorm (this is unusual in North Carolina).  Another time, when my table was located just inside the doors of a bookstore located next to the food court of a mall, a small child threw up right next to the poster announcing my signing, which started things off on a questionable note and also blocked the entrance to the bookstore for a while. (I can attest that she hadn’t read my book, so it wasn’t a comment on my writing.)

So in no particular order of significance, here are five things I’ve learned from book signings.

1.  Unless you’ve got your own TV show, most of the people who come into the store won’t be coming just to see you.  Sad but true.  Which means you’ve got to win them over one at a time and interest them in coming to see what you’ve got to offer.  This is why I like to be at the front of the store, where I can greet people and offer them a bookmark, then introduce myself and give them a friendly pitch.  It’s not for the faint of heart—many people aren’t interested, don’t like fantasy, came looking for something else, etc. But you can’t let that get you down, and you’ve got to greet the next person with as much energy and optimism as you did the very first one.

2.  Too many people go through life in so much of a hurry that they miss out on everything around them.  I can’t count the number of people who can’t be bothered to slow down long enough to know what I’m even saying when I greet them.  I might be offering them a million dollars, but they’re in too much of a hurry to find out.  What can possibly be that urgent in a bookstore that isn’t on fire?  Some just pretend they didn’t hear me.  Others mutter, “no thank you” like I was going to spritz them with perfume.  Some even hold up a hand like I’m going to ask them for money.  This makes me sad—not because they’re not going to buy my book, but because I can guess how much of life they are missing in their hurry.  This also goes for the people so attached to their cell phones that I couldn’t have gotten their attention even if I’d waved that million dollars in their faces.

3.  Always know where the bathroom is, because a percentage of people assume you work for the store and will ask you.  I can be standing next to two huge banners with my name and book covers, next to a table covered with my books, handing out bookmarks and introducing myself as “the author who is doing the signing here today” and about 10% of people will still ask where the bathroom is, or where the children’s books are, or something.

4.  People who work in bookstores are usually really nice.  If there’s a lull in the traffic, I always try to talk to the bookstore staff.  If it’s a rainy day and the mall is quiet, I especially talk to the staff.  They usually work in bookstores because they love books.  Many of them want to be writers. They also know a lot about what readers want, and I can learn a lot from them.  Plus it’s just plain fun to talk to people who love to read.  And, never forget—many people ask booksellers for recommendations.  They’re most likely to recommend your book if you’ve been a polite guest in their store.

5.  Relax and have fun.  If you get too focused on how many books you’ve sold, you stop having fun.  I don’t count.  I just greet everyone who comes my way and try to engage them, get them to smile, and have a personal point of contact for a moment or two.  I’ve met some of the nicest people, had fun conversations, and made some long-time friends.  And I find that when I focus on just being friendly and meeting people, the time flies by, the books fly off the table, and I’m not nearly as tired when I go home because I’ve been having fun.

So the next time you’re at a signing—or you see an author who is doing a signing—smile, relax, and strike up a conversation.  A good chat about books is a wonderful part of any day!

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:

Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin


by Jaleta Clegg

Titles are very important to writers. They are what grab attention and coax readers into opening the cover. My favorite title comes from a science fiction novel by Julie Czerneda – A Thousand Words for Stranger ( My imagination went wild. I had to read that book. I’m glad I did. It’s a great story.

I hate finding a title. Sometimes it takes almost as much time and effort as writing the book. Titles need to capture the essence of the story, and still be pithy, short, and memorable. It’s an art form I struggle to implement.

I usually leave the title to last. I’ll come up with a working title, something I hate, and use that until I have time to figure out something better. Which may or may not happen.

My first novel was originally titled “Dace”, short and sweet and captures the book. Except it didn’t capture audiences. A good friend of mine, who’s also an author, pointed out that my title said everything to me, but nothing to anyone who hadn’t read the book. So I tossed the title and dug deeper, coming up with Nexus Point. A nexus is a point of origin or a zero point. It’s the place where something starts. I thought it was a great title for the first book in a series. The events of that book set in motion the rest of the series. It worked, mostly, because I landed a publisher. One reader commented that she didn’t understand the title. And there are three science fiction books with the same title that came out in the same decade. It’s not unique enough.

Book two was a little easier. Priestess of the Eggstone. Simple, easy, sums up the book. Except most people think it’s Princess of the Eggstone. Close enough. Googling eggstone still finds the book. No one else has used the title.

Book three, the one releasing mid-April, had a working title I despised. I couldn’t find anything better, though. I knew the release was coming so I turned to my internet friends. They came up with some great suggestions, but since most of them had never read the book, the titles didn’t fit. I spent several days digging through ideas, looking for that perfect title. And then it hit me, why not use a chess strategy? The book references the situation as a game with very high stakes. Queen’s Gambit has been overused as a title, though. It didn’t quite fit the story. I dug deeper. And then I found the perfect strategy.

Poisoned Pawn.

It’s obscure and unless you’re a chess buff, you probably have never heard of it. But the title still works for those who have no clue it’s a chess move. Dace, the main character, is a pawn, set out as bait and seemingly unprotected. The bad guys should find her irresistable. But she’s poison, taking her will cause them all sorts of grief. The name suggests a story with intrigue and danger and someone being used. It only took me six years to find the perfect title for the book.

Do you struggle coming up with titles for your work? What titles have grabbed you and never let go?

For those who’ve been nice enough to read this whole post, I’m offering a free ebook of Nexus Point. Just go here and enter the code: AA47G (expires 5/31/13)

Links to all three books, in print and ebook, can be found at



Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Guest Blogger

What I’ve Learned the Hard Way About Book Marketing

by Gail Z. Martin

My first book, The Summoner, was also the launch title for a brand new fiction imprint, Solaris Books, a UK-based publisher that was a subsidiary of Warhammer giant Games Workshop.  No one had heard of Solaris Books, or me, but we launched into the wild blue together.

Since I live in the States and the Solaris folks were in England, I knew we were going to face some marketing challenges.  The books were going to have worldwide distribution, and I wanted us to also have worldwide visibility.  Did I mention that the official marketing budget was pretty well non-existent?

That’s when I discovered Important Thing #1 about book marketing:  Even when you’ve got a traditional publisher, most of the marketing mojo comes from the author.

Fortunately, my MBA and more than 20 years of business experience was in marketing, and I vowed to put everything I knew behind the book, because it was my lifelong dream.  That meant sinking my advance money into marketing expenses.  It paid for a web site, bookmarks, travel costs to genre conventions, posters and banners, and postage for review copies.  I compiled lists of reviewers and bloggers, spent countless hours emailing and mailing, and gradually pulled it all together.

Back in 2007, social media was still pretty new, but it was free and it was global, so that was good enough for me.  I got out onto MySpace (and then Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the rest as they emerged) and found that the real key to letting the world know about a new book was making relationships one reader at a time.  Social media was perfect for building reader relationships.

It worked.  We sold 50,000 copies of The Summoner in short order and went back to reprint.  The Blood King came out, and did equally well.  I ventured into podcasting, blogging, and more social media.  Books kept selling.

And a curious thing happened.  Other authors—even publishers—started to ask what I was doing, because it was working.  And I was invited to write a new non-fiction series about social media, beginning with 30 Days to Social Media Success, and a new series on book marketing, beginning with The Thrifty Author’s Guide to Launching Your Book Without Losing Your Mind.

The marketing plan I create for my books and the time and energy I spend promoting them was a factor in my being picked up by Orbit Books for the most recent four books.  That marketing plan continues to play a big role in my new Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, with the launch of Ice Forged in January 2013.  I work very closely with the folks at Orbit to make sure we’re all working hand-in-glove to get the word out.  To date, it’s helped me sell about 400,000 books worldwide, and I’m hoping it will help me sell even more in the future.

So what did I learn the hard way? (Besides everything?)  Here are my top take-aways:

1.  A good book is no good if no one ever hears about it.  The hard work is just beginning once the book is written.

2.  Today’s writers can’t afford to be hermits if they want to be successful (i.e. sell enough books to be invited back to write new ones).  You’ve got to get out and make friends with as many readers as you can.

3.  Social media enables you to create personal connections with readers all over the world.  But you have to be interesting, personal and consistent.

4.  Writers don’t have the luxury of being tech phobic about online marketing any more than they can be tech phobic about using a computer to write their books.  If you’re smart enough to write a book, you can figure out Facebook.

5.  Relax and enjoy the marketing—it’s really about making yourself available to meet people who love books.  Readers love to learn about a good book.  Marketing feels more authentic—and is a lot more fun and less work—when you approach it as one reader sharing a book suggestion with other readers.

If you enjoy writing—and I’m assuming you do, if you want to write books—then take the plunge and realize that marketing your book is just another form of writing.  And if you love your book (and I hope you do, since you’ve just spent a year or so birthing it), then talking about something you love should come easily and naturally.

There are readers in this world who need your book!  Get out there and let them know the book they’ve been waiting for is now available!

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Gail is also the author of six marketing books: 30 Days to Social Media Success, 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success, and 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success (the 30 Days Results Guide series) along with Launching Your Book Without Losing Your Mind, Selling and Promoting Your Book Online and Social Media and Virtual Apps for Authors (The Thrifty Author’s Guide series).  You can find Gail’s books in bookstores and online worldwide.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:


Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin

The Day After the End of the World

by Gail Z. Martin

What happens on the day after the world ends?

As in most apocalyptic scenarios, the “end of the world” doesn’t necessarily mean the planet has been blown into smithereens.  More likely, something has radically altered the climate, destroyed the power and communication grids, and sent governments careening into anarchy.  Whatever the cataclysm, it’s likely that large numbers of people are dead, medicine and medical facilities are scarce or non-existent, and social roles have completely broken down.  Transportation is dangerous or not possible.  Survivors are on their own to figure out how to get by.

In my new novel, Ice Forged, my characters face a post-apocalyptic medieval world where war has not only devastated the physical landscape and destroyed the social structure, it has made magic unusable.  That’s bad news for a culture that depended on magic in much the same way our culture relies on technology.

I’m fascinated by the people left alive to clean up the mess.  How do they pick up the pieces and go on? What decisions do they make regarding how to protect themselves, how to find food and shelter, and how to band together for support?  What elements of the culture do they try to preserve, and which do they allow to die?  What becomes of a culture’s art, religion and collected knowledge?

As I’ve worked through these questions in Ice Forged (and the manuscript for its sequel), it’s been an interesting journey to strip civilization down to its most basic essentials and then put myself in the boots of the survivors to determine what gets rebuilt—and what is allowed to remain rubbish.

When you’re free to re-make yourself once the strictures of class, family history and social convention are removed, who would you choose to be?  And if the only thing that matters if your ability to survive and protect your friends, would your past mistakes (or criminal record) still haunt you?

These questions are especially significant for my Ice Forged main characters, who have been exiled to a prison colony in the far north.  When Blaine McFadden, exiled for murder, comes to realize that he might be the only one who can put magic right again, he faces a series of decisions that go to the core of his being.  I’ve enjoyed putting him to that test, and finding out what drives my characters, what matters to them when they’ve lost everything, what keeps them moving forward.

You learn a lot about someone when you go through the apocalypse together.  And you learn even more when you have to decide what kind of civilization you’ll rebuild.  I hope you’ll join me for the adventure!

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:


Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin

Women and the Apocalypse

by Gail Z. Martin

In my new novel Ice Forged, a medieval post-apocalyptic story, I find that women of every circumstance play a very important role in what happens after the world “ends.”

Blaine McFadden, my main character, sacrifices his title, lands and fortune to protect his sister and aunt from Blaine’s abusive father.  He’s sent to a prison colony in the arctic, There, he meets women from every class and circumstance whose ill fortune caused them to be exiled.  One of those fellow prisoners, Kestel Falke, is a courtesan, spy and assassin who becomes part of Blaine’s inner circle.  Among the prisoners who have survived long enough to become colonists, the women are shopkeepers and merchants, trades people and seers, farmers and trollops.  They play an important role in the economy of the self-sufficient colony, and emerge among the leaders when a devastating war cuts the colony off from the supplies and oversight provided by the kingdom.

Regardless of their previous social class or the circumstances that caused their imprisonment, the older women colonists emerge as the “wise women”, an important force in the social cohesion of the colony.  Far from the land of their birth, torn from their families and loved ones, these “wise women” preside over the births, marriages and deaths, and keep the customs and culture of their homeland alive through the celebration of religious and seasonal holidays.  The magics of vision, foresight and prophecy seem to fall more often on women than men, giving women with these gifts status and standing among their fellow colonists.

When war destroys the kingdom that exiled Blaine and his fellow colonists, the after-effects of war fall especially heavy on the women who survive the devastation.  With a generation of men lost to the battlefront, and many of the surviving men either too old, too young or too injured from the war, it falls to the women to piece together a subsistence living from the wreckage, harvest and plant the crops, gather the scattered livestock, and patch up their damaged dwellings.  Since the Cataclysm also destroyed the kingdoms’ trading partners, the survivors are on their own for the necessities of life.  And since magic was one of the casualties of war, those who survived the conflict must shoulder the burden of rebuilding without magical help.

Blaine’s Aunt Judith, his sister Mari and his former fiancé, Carensa, each find a different path to survive in the harsh new reality.  Without the strictures and conventions of class and in the midst of a society torn asunder, they have the opportunity to make decisions for themselves and step into leadership roles in ways that would not have been possible under old norms.

I found it very interesting to think about the tension that the power vacuum creates after the apocalypse. Some of the women survivors will seize the moment to assume roles for which they are qualified but which social pressures would have denied them before the breakdown of society.  Others will attempt to regain a sense of control and normalcy by attempting to replace familiar cultural, social and family roles and take consolation in the familiar.

I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know the women of the apocalypse in Ice Forged and as I work on the sequel.  And I’m looking forward to seeing more of them as future stories come together.  I hope you’ll join me for the adventure.

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.

Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:



Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Gail Z. Martin