An Interview with Stephanie Barko

Stephanie BarkoToday I welcome  Stephanie Barko to my series of interviews. Stephanie will be presenting at the Historical Novels Society Conference as a literary publicist. In the workshop Building an Effective Platform for your Historical, Stephanie will lead attendees through her proprietary exercises that coax a book’s platform to the surface.  Welcome, Stephanie.

Q: What does a typical day look like in your job as a literary publicist?

A: My day begins with black coffee, a lit candle, a gratitude list and soul writing (a la Janet Conner).

After listening to a guided meditation through a headset, I clean up my email before beginning to execute client deliverables. During my day, I may be shipping galleys for pre-pub review, pitching radio producers, subcontracting for a colleague in Manhattan, or arranging a virtual tour. Depending on the season of the year, I will be working in some yoga, aqua aerobics, Tai Chi or walking to keep my brain oxygenated during the work week. I break to cook dinner and then get right back to it during the evening unless there’s something I can’t bear to miss on PBS.

Q: What do you like most about promoting historical novels and nonfiction?

A: My favorite task during a contract is research–researching journalists for a media list, researching the top Technorati book bloggers, or researching the best endorser candidates for a client’s book. The pre-pub phase is when I can add the most value, and that’s the part of a campaign I enjoy the most.

Q: What do you like the LEAST about your job?

A: Redirecting stray prospects who have queried for my services without doing their homework.

Q: What can historical novelists and nonfiction authors do to help you help THEM?

A: A good start would be to approach me with a publisher already on board, a release date, an edited manuscript, and professionally designed cover still in progress, and a list o potential or actual endorsers.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-interviewee-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Coffee or tea?  Organic French Roast

Ocean or Mountain: Mountains of the American West

Hiking or shopping? Hiking

Violin or piano? Piano

Mystery or fantasy: Mystery

Darcy or Heathcliff? Darcy

Love scene or death scene? Death scene

For more information about Stephanie Barko and her work, visit her website, read about her at Literary Marketplace or visit her in your favorite online milleu:

Thanks, Stephanie!

Videos and Marketing

Cornerstone Press has created a number of videos, which can be viewed on youtube, to market Syncopation.  I’m going to see if I can imbed some of these videos in this blog.  Wish me luck!

Of course, we should start off with the amazing book trailer:

Next, is Chalk Talk:

The next three are readings from the text:





I think I did it!  I hope you enjoyed the clips.

Come back tomorrow for my author interview with Beth Elliot.



World Builders

Pat Rothfuss, a colleague of mine and a New York Times best selling author, is once again running World Builders, a fundraiser for the Heifer Project

Pat, who has become hugely famous because of his fantasy novels The Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fears, has gotten novelists, publishers, and generous individuals to donate books, illustrations, maps, trinkets, and all sorts of really cool stuff. 

For every ten dollars a person donates to the Heifer Project, that person gets one chance at having his name drawn from a hat for a cool, donated item.  ($20 earns 2 chances, etc.)  Although Pat is a fantasy writer and much of the cool stuff comes from the world of fantasy, there are exceptions, including a couple signed copies of The Stolen Goldin Violin.

Other donated items are so desirable that they are not a part of the lottery but instead will be auctioned off. 

If you don’t feel like hoping to win the lottery, and don’t want to bankrupt yourself at an auction, you can visit the very cool “Tinker’s Packs” and purchase cool, donated items straight up.

All proceeds benefit the Heifer Project.  You can visit Heifer to learn more about that organization, but to be a part of the lottery/auction/Tinker’s Packs, you need to donate through the World Builders page.   

I encourage you to visit World Builders, check out the cool stuff, and make a donation today !

Costume Dress

I was trying so hard to get the camera angle right, I forgot to smile.

I have wanted a nineteenth century gown for a long time.  How does one go about finding something like that?  I contacted the theater department at the university to find out what they do with costumes after a performance is over (answer:  they keep them).  I did learn that the department’s cutter/draper sometimes does freelance projects.  How could I possibly justify the cost?

Then, out of the blue, a friend who is moving asked me if I would like a regency gown she had had made for a costume party and will probably never wear again !!!!

I answered “yes” very quickly.

I hope to upload some better pictures soon, but for now these will have to do.  This is the full view.  I’m not too happy with how it looks, but that is more the fault of the person in the dress, than the dress itself.  (Note to self: make time to exercise!)

I’m hoping to take this to the Historical Novels Society conference in June (and get some better pictures).

When one of my historicals is finally published, I plan to do book signings in costume.  This could be one of the costumes, but I will probably hire that draper to make a costume that is more era-appropriate depending on which book I’m selling.  Charlotte’s Inheritance and Syncopation are both mid-nineteenth century, while Wilde’s Wager is late nineteenth century.

I guess I’ll just have to write a book to go with my new regency-era, Jane Austen-style gown!

Selling Syncopation

In my novel Syncopation, Adele Hugo writes her memoirs, and as she writes she sometimes argues with her sister.  These pieces of dialog fall outside the main narrative and are indicated by italics.

All of the people who have read only the first few chapters of  Syncopation comment that the dialog between the sisters is confusing and should be dropped.  All of the people who have read the entire manuscript say that the dialog between the sisters is brilliant, the best part of the story.

At one point, I took the suggestion about removing the dialog and revised for many months.  The story fell apart.  I put it back together, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good.  So, I’ve “trashed” that revision and continue to try to pitch the version with the dialog.

You see, as the memoir progress, the dialog develops and merges with the ongoing narrative.  The reason for it becomes apparent.

How can I get people to want to keep reading in order to see how good that part of the story is?  In particular, how can I get agents and editors to keep reading?  I’ve been hesitant to explain all of this in my query letter, but should I?  My query letter is getting responses, but my first few chapters do not.

Any ideas?


Over the past year, I’ve been visiting the blogs of writers and studying them and trying to figure out what makes a blog interesting. What makes a reader want to return again and again to a blog?

The answer is the human connection. Writing about writing is interesting, but what readers really want is to feel a personal connection to the writer celebrity. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you’ll remember that in my first post I said I would not be handing out personal information on this blog.

Get ready for an about face!

While I still plan to retain a basic level of privacy, I’m now going to reach out to my readers in a personal way. I’m going to let you know more about me.

For example, did you know that I’ve been having a mid-life crisis through my hair?

For the past fifteen to twenty years, I’ve had the same short hairstyle:




About a year ago, I decided I wanted to grow out my hair. Now, I look like this:




I have a very slight colic and that hair that grows out of that spot is fully gray. I’ve been paying to color my hair with chemicals and as the gray starts to come in, I hide it. I love this hair band, but wearing it every day seems odd, and in the cold Wisconsin wind, I really need to wear a hat.




For the past five years, I’ve been getting my hair colored at a beauty salon. I like the results, but I’ve worried about putting such harsh chemicals on my head every six weeks for the rest of my life. Plus, it’s quite pricy.

So, I’ve decided to color my hair myself, with henna. It’s my project of today. Stay tuned for updates and photos.

The End of November

We had a great book signing at Fireside Books in West Bend. There was a bigger crowd than I’d expected. (The local paper did a very nice write-up the day before.) The boys played Christmas music, and people asked a lot of questions about the writing process and the Suzuki method. And, of course, people bought our book! We love book signings!

Now I am back in Stevens Point, November is almost over, and I am nowhere near to having a successful NaNoWriMo.

I was looking at the NaNoWriMo page that graphs my word count against how much I need to write every day to reach 50,000. My word count is currently 14,089, so you can imagine how small my little bar is on the graph. I was feeling a little sad about it when it occurred to me that I wrote over 14,000 words this month. That’s amazing!

I don’t normally keep track of word count, but I’d guess that I don’t normally write 14,000 words in a month. I started patting myself on the back and thinking positive.

So, I didn’t write a novel. I didn’t finish a novel. But I wrote and I’ll keep on writing. And, hey, I’ve still got two days, right?

Book Signings

Sat, Nov 13, Stevens Point:
We will be selling books all day at HolidayFest which is held in St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Sat, Nov 27, West Bend:
We will be signing books and the boys will be playing Christmas music at Fireside Books and Gifts in West Bend, Wisconsin.

Thurs, Dec 2, Stevens Point:
I will be selling signed books at the High School Writers Workshop at the student union at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

Reject Bowker’s Manuscript Submission Service

Would you pay $200 a year to have your manuscript in a slush pile? This is what Bowker Publishing is asking authors to do.

If Bowker can convince publishers and editors to buy into its service, authors will have no way of reaching the publishing industry without paying exorbitant fees. Only writers who can afford to pay will get published.

I am outraged! Please, writers, refuse to submit to this service!!! Please, editors and agents, refuse to participate in this scheme!!!