Don’t Drop the Ball Now. If you have gotten this far, take time to update your website, keep people informed on your My Space page, or Twitter your latest event. Let your targeted audience (chefs, lawyers, senior citizen groups) know what you are doing. Visit all those Internet communities you have joined and let them know what you are up to. Leave a comment on a fellow writer’s blog when they have a new book out. Review somebody’s book on Amazon.com. (Wouldn’t you like somebody to do that to your book?)
As you learn new skills, like doing a TV interview, let people know about it on your website. Polish old skills. (You can always improve.) You should have learned a hundred great writing techniques and mistakes to avoid in that writing group you joined. (We can all learn from other’s mistakes.)
Update your short, one-paragraph biography often, so when someone is doing publicity on you (or you are sending out your own Press Release) you have the latest news on yourself at hand. Something you did in college probably won’t interest anybody five or ten years later, but guest blogging on someone else’s blog is Big News. The fact you wrote poems in high school isn’t very interesting. The fact you interviewed a fellow writer on your blog is exciting. Read other people’s biographies on their websites. You’ll spot the pro from the novice by what the pro leaves out.
Go for the Gold. Once you have a book in print, try creating a video book trailer for your website. Hey! If you have done all the previous points, you can do the book trailer. It’s the toughest “new thing” out there, but other writers are doing them.
Tough love segment: Agents and publishers are looking for any excuse to say “no” to you and your manuscript. If you have most of these twelve bullet points under your belt, they are going to find it hard to turn you down. You show initiative and you follow through. That means they won’t have worry about expending time and money on a newcomer. (Let them spend their time and money when your efforts pay off and you have a Best Seller.) Do your homework now and maybe your publisher will spring for the book trailer later.
A Final Thought
You aren’t alone out there. There are plenty of people who are at the same level in their career as you, some a little further along, some even more of a newcomer than you. Writers today are learning that they need to learn these same silly skills to get themselves noticed. Why not you?
These bullet points are meant to give you a heads up in this business and to urge you learn them, try them, and to get your name plastered all over the Internet along with your terrific face. You have a vested interest in getting a book published and selling those books. You are also the best salesman of your work. Nobody knows you like you.
Use all these “platforms” to climb up to the top of the heap and shout your name from the rooftops. Each one will make you a better writer and more interesting to an agent or publisher.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
By Pamela Samuels Young
Goldman House, 2008, $14.95
Pamela Samuels Young knows the law and she knows the mystery-suspense genre. Now, in her third legal thriller, featuring attorney Vernetta Henderson, Young wrestles with a controversial social issue. But it’s not at the expense of her intricate plotting, memorable characters and intense action that readers have come to expect.
A series of apparently unconnected murders of affluent African-American men in Los Angeles has citizens as well as the police department on edge. From her preliminary investigation, LAPD Detective J. C. Sparks suspects a deeper motive than racial prejudice, but someone in the department has told her to back off.
At a funeral across town Vernetta Henderson, best friend Special Moore, sister attorney Nichelle Ayers, and J.C. mourn the death of a close friend, the victim of a different sort of crime. Maya died of AIDS, contracted from her secretly gay husband who got the HIV virus from one of his homosexual lovers… and failed to inform her.
The friends are outraged at how this “on the down low” creep killed Maya and got away with it. Determined to make him pay, they meet together with Maya’s mother to plan their revenge. But Special, who was cousin to Maya, has more in mind than a wrongful death suit. After publicly exposing the man’s lifestyle and accusing him of murder, she secretly – and viciously – begins to harass him. But later, when she is arrested and charged, it’s for much more than harassment.
As Vernetta and Nichelle research for the civil suit and Special’s criminal defense, they find a shocking link to the citywide murders. Suddenly J.C.’s investigation is hot again, and time is running out for Special.
With shades of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club, the four women use their skills to find justice in a world of deceit, addiction, prejudice and fear, where there are many motives and opportunities for murder.
Whether in the courtroom, the police station, a church or a private bedroom, Young writes with a confidence that comes from first-hand experience and extensive research. And her passion for injustice and the issues that effect women is seen strongly in MURDER IN THE DOWN LOW.
By Pamela Samuels-Young
Reviewed by Jackie Houchin
Los Angeles attorney, Vernetta Henderson is on the partner track. She’s a lone black woman in an all male firm; but her case record is good and the managing partner is her mentor, so she’s confident she’ll make it.
That is, until a highly visible case she’s working on goes bad. Her client is a powerful company who is being sued by the employee they dismissed for sexual harassment. Traditionally they have refused to accept settlements, so Vernetta rejects an extremely low offer, believing she could easily win in court. But when new evidence surfaces, the company suddenly wants her to settle…at any cost. She is unable to negotiate a settlement with the new opposing counsel, and is dismissed from the case.
Her chances at partnership fade even more when a self-important junior associate circulates slanderous rumors about her. And when she most needs support from her husband, he has problems of his own with a sexy young secretary who’s making threats.
Despite stress in her career and personal life, Vernetta is more troubled about several discrepancies in her former client’s case. At the insistence of her best friend – but against her better judgment – she reluctantly begins to investigate. What she discovers puts lives in danger, including her own. Can she “argue” her way out of this one, or will she become just another statistic?
Pamela Samuels-Young has written a fast paced, legal thriller with a fascinating plot and a strong female protagonist. She’s packed her book with tense, dramatic scenes and flashy, memorable characters. She is just as comfortable writing legal dialogue (without sounding pompous) as she is writing sexy “sister talk.” And she handles touchy African-American workplace issues with style.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Your Inner Ham. This one might be scary, but if you really want to cut the mustard as a writer, you have to be able to stand up in front of strangers and read your work out loud. If you haven’t passed out from the mere thought of that, you might think, “Oh, how hard can that be?” Practice it. Have some friends watch you and honestly critique you. Try reading stories to a children’s group. If they start laughing or falling asleep, maybe you should improve your technique. If you mumble in a monotone with your head down, it’s time to take a Toastmasters course.
Reading to an audience is more than saying the words. You must be able to project to the back of the room. You should use varied tones and moods. Your face should suggest the different characters you are portraying. In other words, you should give a performance.
Many books are sold at public readings because the author made his or her book sound like a movie. It can be done, with practice. Read your own work out loud as you are polishing that final draft. Pick the most exciting parts and perfect your act.
As a bonus, while reading your work out loud, you will detect mistakes that you had overlooked while just reading the words off the computer screen. To kill two birds with one stone: record yourself as you read. You will hear your literary errors and you can judge your own presentation.
Remember: It is a performance. Lights. Camera. Action.
Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up. If you have anything published, even self-published, do TV interviews to get face time and experience. Local TV stations in many areas do segments on local authors. Public access stations do round-tables with authors. Call them up, tell them what you have done. Suggest doing a panel of several of your writer friends for their station. It never hurts to ask.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Marilyn Meredith is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series as well as the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. In addition, she writes Christian Horror, edits, teaches and freelances. Welcome Marilyn!
There was an article about you on the Austin Writing Examiner website, about how you just keep getting better. When did you start your writing career, and what lead you to decide to be an author?
That comment about getting better made me laugh. I certainly hope I'm getting better and I always feel like my latest book is the best.
I've always written but didn't start really pursuing a writing career until I was in my forties. Oh I was writing, but hadn't started the submitting, getting rejected, resubmitting process until nearly all my kids were grown.
Being a reader is what really made me want to be a published writer.
Your current release, Dispel the Myth, is your eighth Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. This time, she enters the realm of supernatural through the Legend of the Hairy Man. Can you tell us a bit about this legend and how you came to hear of it?
Every Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery contains some supernatural elements and/or Indian legend. In the book prior to this one, Kindred Spirits, I did a lot of my research with a Tolowa woman in Crescent City. In that area stories about Big Foot encounters are many. While doing some online reserach about Big Foot I came across a website about the Hairy Man with legends and a photo of the pictograph that is in a rock shelter on the Indian reservation near my home. Of course I had to learn more.
I contacted the Anthropology Professor at Porterville College to ask questions and he invited me on a class field trip to the rock shelter. Of course I went--and I knew Tempe would have to go there too.
Tempe is Native American, fairly tall, dark haired, a deputy sheriff, has a grown son and is married to a preacher.
Stacey Wilbur is white, small, fair, a police officer and now a Vice Officer, isn't married though she's in a relationship with a detective, and has a little boy.
I wrote three Christian horror--they are all three very scary--but there is a Christian message in all of them. I was never very successful with them because I guess the mainstream publishers were right, they were too Christian for their readers and the Christian publishers aid they were too scary for their readers. I found small publishers who liked the books despite the scary and Christian combination.
You keep an impressive appearance schedule, not to mention you blog, publish a newsletter, freelance write, edit a newsletter, do public speaking and teach. Your energy level puts me to shame. How do you fit in your writing?
It isn't easy sometimes to fit in my writing. Like today, I should be editing my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. book and when that's done I need to start another Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. And believe it or not, I do have a life. I do combine things though, I'm having a book signing at our next family reunion.
As one of the first authors to jump into ebook publishing, can you tell us if what the differences are from traditional print publishing?
When ebook publishing first began there were no e-readers like there are today, so it was slow going. The Rocket e-Reader was the first reader to come out, but it was bought by Sony who just recently came out with their own. Many of my books are available for all the versions of e-readers now available.
When the print-on-demand technology came about, nearly all the e-publishers started doing trade paperbacks of their e-books which is what Mundania Press does, the publisher of my Tempe Crabtree books.
The Rocky Bluff P.D. books are also trade paperback, and Oak Tree Press makes them available as e-books for the Kindle.
E-publishers are far more flexible than other publishers in that they are much more willing to publish a new writer, one that is older, and books that cross several genres. All they are looking for is a good book. There guidelines are always posted on their websites and it is really important that these guidelines are followed. They get lots of submissions and not following guidelines will probably mean a rejection.
Your web site list several writing classes that you offer to groups, libraries and schools. One class is Creating Fiction from your own Genealogy. Could you tell us what this is about?
My very first published books, Trail to Glory and Two Ways West were based on my own family's genealogy. My sister did the genealogy and when I read it I had so many questions I decided to do some research and write a fiction book from what I learned. What fun! It meant researching the time and places where the family traveled, what might have made them move on, and everything else necessary to write a historical novel.
Once I was done with both sides of the family, I had to figure out what I was going to write next. Since I loved to read mysteries, I decided that's what I should write.
Putting on your teacher’s hat, what is the one most valuable piece of advice you’d like to offer our readers?
If you are brand new to writing, learn all you can. Read the kind of books you want to write. Then sit in front of your computer and start writing. Write every day if possible. When you're done get someone to edit your work. When the manuscript is as good as you can get it, start sending it out. Then, start the next book. Don't let rejections stop you. See if there's something you can learn from the rejection, rewrite it necessary, and keep sending the book out.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I'm cleaning up the next Rocky Bluff P.D. book which should come out sometime after the first of the year. Mundania has my next Tempe which is due next fall.
Marilyn can be reached at her website. You can also purchase a copy of Dispel the Mist by clicking on the bookcover to the left.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Paddle Your Own Boat. Submit articles to on-line writers’ magazines or write for your local weekly newspaper. You can submit book reviews or articles on local writers like yourself, or maybe cover community news or write special interest articles. Write newsletter articles for the groups to which you belong. You will be writing and people will be seeing your name in print.
As a freelance reporter, you can get out there and talk to people, the very people who just might show up at your first book launch. You will be somebody who is doing something in your community rather than sitting back and waiting for things to float your way. Paddle your own boat and you will get to your goal a lot faster.
Planning Ahead. Okay, you have honed a few skills, maybe you have even sold a short story or two. You are contemplating the time when that brilliant publisher realizes that you have a publishable book and snaps you up. You will finally have something in print with your name on it. Hooray.
Question: What will you do then?
Answer: Find people who want to read it.
Problem: You didn’t think about this part earlier.
Solution: Let’s think about it now.
Selling one book at a time at a local bookstore might be a little slow. How about finding a group of people who might be interested in your particular subject matter? Sue Ann Jaffarian’s protagonist, Odellia Grey in Booby Trap, is a pleasantly plump paralegal. Sue Ann speaks at paralegal conventions. And lawyer conventions. She parlayed her real life job skills into a series of novels and then doubled down to promote herself and her books at conferences featuring the vary same people. That’s a good marketing technique.
Say you wrote about a “super chef/sleuth.” You might try asking a cooking utensil convention to let you come and speak. Or a food convention. Or a cruise line that caters to caterers. Find groups of people with whom you have a connection. If your protagonist is over forty (or maybe even in their sixties), try senior citizen groups. If your plot centers around the aerospace industry, ask NASA if you can speak at their next get-together.
So, planning ahead sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? You might even rearrange your plot to put some big business entity in it (in a good light) just so you can be invited to their next convention.
Market your book and yourself. Examine your skills, talents, interests, previous or current job and see how they can be used to promote that book of yours. Remember: you want to sell books, but mostly, you want to sell yourself.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
What are some of the purposes of a web site and the advantages to having one?
First I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for the Writer’s in Residence web site, Jackie, and I want all of the readers to know I’ll be happy to answer any question we do not cover here today.
All right, some of the purposes of a web site include personal pages such as family photo sharing and e-mail, to e-commerce business applications where folks can buy your product and have it shipped to them. One of the most popular uses of a web site these days is to host a blog site, such as Writer’s in Residence.
There are many advantages to having a web site, whether it is a free blog or a paid solution. Free sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Photo Bucket are perfect for friends to share updates about their lives, post photos, and keep in touch. These sites are also a good means of promoting professional web sites as well.
As for having a custom web site for your business, it is downright essential nowadays. More and more, even if you do business in person, your clients will look you up online for detailed information about your services. It is important to have a professional web site in order to build brand recognition and confidence.
Are there any new trends in websites that you can tell us about?
In the 15 years that I have been watching web site trends, the enduring and most important one has been to make web sites more useful—to make them do more for the end user. In 1994 when the Internet was first opened to the public, most sites were nothing more than a vanity page or business card. Now you can purchase anything and everything online, seeing it in various styles and colors before making your choice.
Most importantly they should have in mind what they want users to be able to do on their web site. Is it to simply share information, exchange ideas, or to enable visitors to make a purchase? Decide this first and I can help with the rest.
Any time creative professionals deal with people’s imaginings versus reality, they risk having a gap between the two. What should potential clients realistically expect from a web designer?
As far as the design goes, it is best for a client to provide a few links of web sites with a design that appeals to them. Rather than copy these sites, the designer will be inspired to create something new which will have a similar “feel” to existing sites. A great web designer can make people’s imaginings become reality, but usually at a cost, so budget has to be considered when planning a web site.
What is the biggest challenge that you run into when working with clients?
Oh, that would definitely be with providing content. This is not much of a problem with writers, but it can be for those with a new business idea. “Content is king,” I tell my clients. Without good text content on the home page, for instance, the major search engines like Google may never index their web site. A good domain name and lots of relevant text makes a world of difference.
Branding is becoming a big deal, especially with authors. This is when the author creates an image or identity through their website, blog, appearances etc. Do you address this at all through your services?
Great question. I often buy books based on the author’s name only, and this is a result of good branding. With the author’s website used as the starting point, and branching out to all blogs, interviews, appearances, etc, the brand name becomes consistent instead of fragmented. The author’s web site must not be “yet another” site she/he is found on, but instead it must be the foundation from which all other site postings are based. I definitely believe in this and guide the author all the way toward strong brand recognition.
How long does it take to design a web site from first consultation until the site goes live?
Of course this depends on so many variables, but what I like to do is give the client a basic presence immediately and then build upon that. The design process may take a few weeks, but in the meantime there is some home page content and a means of contacting the web site owner. Alternatively, I can bring the web site live all at once, it just depends on the customer’s preference.
What are the costs involved?
Again, this will depend on a few variables, though I daresay that a web presence is affordable for just about anyone as long as their expectations are realistic. Just as an example, a 5-page web site with a contact form would be $299.
Can a client make changes, additions, and updates? What’s involved?
Yes, if I know upfront that the client would like to make their own changes later I can build the site in such a way that it has an “administrator” mode which allows them to add or edit content. This mode is very easy for anyone to use, so it takes a bit more work for me to create. A very inexpensive web site would be edited in “HTML”—the language of the web—so it would have no such client mode. It all depends on the customer’s wishes and budget.
Does the webmaster "promote" the site in any way, such as advertise it on Google?
A good designer will build a web site so that it is “search engine optimized.” This means that search engines such as Google will automatically index such sites because of the way they are constructed by the designer. Additionally, I do let Google know when a site is live and ready for indexing.
Is there something that you would like to tell our audience?
I would be happy to talk to anyone reading this article, and you may reach me for a live chat by visiting my website http://uberhost.net/ and clicking on the “Live Support” button. You can also visit my contact page at http://uberhost.net/contact.php for toll-free number, fax, email, and more.
Thanks again for this interview!
Friday, October 9, 2009
Acquire the ‘Write’ Type of Friends. Join a hands-on writer’s group in your area. Knowing you aren’t alone in this very lonely business is good for the psyche. You might have to join more than one before you find one that fits your age group and temperament. (There is a difference.) Some writers still appreciate proper grammar and spelling. (Some don’t.) And remember: you aren’t married to these groups, so leave if one doesn’t click. Or start your own group with people sharing your values, temperament, and needs. You want to improve your writing skills, so make sure this is a learning experience. And be very generous with your skills. Sharing your writing knowledge with others is part of the “platform” building.
Join on-line writers groups to keep your finger on the pulse of the business, and to make contacts and maybe get a few readers when your book comes out. This is another way networking pays off.
Stand Up and Be Counted. After you have joined a national writers organization like Sisters-in-Crime or Mystery Writers of America, and you find you like what they offer, ask what you can do to help out. Volunteer. People will learn that they can rely on you. If the board members see that you are a good worker, you might find yourself on a committee or two. Get that face of yours out there. If you are willing to go the extra mile, see if you can get on the board and be one of those deciding what that group of writers can do to help each other as well as the community at large. This shows that you are a mover and shaker.
If you have a talent for teaching, you might try your hand at giving a class about writing or the business of writing. Kate Thornton, a short story writer with over a hundred short stories to her credit, has taught a course in “How to Write a Short Story.” Eric Stone (Shanghaied) has set up his own book tours when each of his books came out. He also teaches a course: “Setting Up Your Own Book Tour.” Their expertise has led to them sharing their knowledge with others. You just might have a class in you, too.
Keep notes of your writing progress, experiences, and things you have learned. They just might be the basis of a class you can give at a local library or at the next writers’ conference. It’s another presentation where your skills will come into play.
Your leadership skills are being polished and you didn’t even know it. It’s another “platform” to add to your collection.
Monday, October 5, 2009
“Homicide in Hardcover” was your first bibliophile mystery, and “If Books Could Kill” comes out in February of 2010. Your character, Brooklyn Wainwright, is a book restorer. How did you come up with this unusual occupation?
You have a background in romance, and you can see it in the light, fun relationship that develops between Brooklyn and British security officer, Derek Stone. Do you think that mystery and romance are a natural combination?
Brooklyn’s parents are members of a commune headed by Guru Bob, and her father and Guru Bob are a unique combination of spiritualism and successful capitalism. Where did these fabulous and funny characters come from?
Oh, dear. If I tell you I was once in a commune, will you be shocked? No, of course you won’t be. I was raised in California in the 60’s, after all! So yes, many years ago, I was involved with a spiritual and artistic community up in northern California where we also had a vineyard and a winery. I suppose you could say it was mildly successful. Additionally, my brothers were huge fans of the Grateful Dead and I was smart enough to tag along with them to a few concerts. It was amazing to get a peek inside that fascinating subculture and I loved using some of what I saw as background for Brooklyn’s parents. And then there’s my mother. She’s … hmm, unique! I couldn’t help using a bit of her personality when it came to writing Brooklyn’s mother. Anyway, I took all the bones of those people and experiences and created Brooklyn’s parents and family and friends and the wonderful Guru Bob.
These days, I warn my family and friends that anything they say or do may be stolen and used in my books. These days, they’re very careful around me!
When we left Brooklyn at the end of “Homicide in Hardcover”, she was on her way to England with Derek Stone. Does this mean we are going to see more of this luscious security officer? Are they set to solve mysteries as a team?
Definitely! I don’t think I’d want to write a book without dashing Derek! So yes, he’ll be back in book two to torment—or be tormented by—Brooklyn. And not to give too much away, but he’ll be back in book three, as well. I must admit, I really love Derek, and I think Brooklyn seems to like him a lot, too!
Have you any desire to set one of the series’ books in England?
Yes. And while it’s not quite England, the next book does take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, at an annual book fair along the Royal Mile. I was very excited to use that city as a backdrop for the series because it has such a rich history—and lots of ghosts.
Also, if the series continues to be successful (fingers crossed!), I’m hoping to set a book in Lyon, France, where there’s a world-renowned school of book arts. And I would love to set another one in London, perhaps centered around one of the auction houses there. We’ll see how it goes.
OK. I just about keeled over laughing when I read “All About Kate” on your website which chronicles your journey into publishing. It includes headings such as "When Good Things Happen to Bad Girls" and "Lying for Fun and Profit". Your parents had you marked as a telemarketer (excellent phone voice), a bookie (loved ponies), and a sales person (hawking chocolate bars to sailors). How do they feel about published author?
I’m so glad you enjoyed my biography. It’s all true, of course (ha ha!). Needless to say, my mother is absolutely thrilled that I’m finally published. (After twenty years, we all had our doubts.) But she’s my biggest fan now and at least once a week, she goes over to her local Barnes & Noble to check that my books are still there with the covers facing out. She also goes around giving my books to all the libraries in her area, which I heartily encourage. I have a large, extended family and all of them have been wonderfully supportive, showing up at my book signings, buying books to give to local libraries and hospitals, and talking me up among friends and co-workers. It’s great to have that kind of support.
What’s next for Kate Carlisle?
I’ve just started book three of the bibliophile mysteries, which takes place in San Francisco and the Sonoma wine country. Naturally, I had to do extensive research for that! I’ll also be taking lots of bookbinding classes over the next few months because for part of this book, Brooklyn will be teaching a master bookbinding class.
Additionally, I recently finished my first romance novel for Harlequin and I’ve just sent in a proposal for two more. I’m also involved with two group blogs every month so I’m always trying to write my entries early to keep ahead of schedule. And I’m very excited to be attending my first Bouchercon convention in ten years, in Indianapolis next week, so that should be fun.
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle
What trouble could Brooklyn Wainwright get into? She’s only a book restorer. But when her mentor, Abraham, is murdered at a private showing, she is suddenly surrounded by suspects and suspicions. The dead man’s last words are “Remember the devil”. Does this have something to do with the star of the showing—an allegedly cursed copy of Goethe’s Faust? The same book that Brooklyn is now in charge of restoring? If so, Brooklyn’s going to have to watch her step, or she could wind up the next victim. But with so many potential killers around, whom should she keep an eye on?
First, there’s Minka LaBoeuf, Brooklyn’s favorite choice for killer, maybe because Minka has a history of messing with Brooklyn that includes an “accidental” attack with an X-Acto knife. Abraham recently fired Minka, and experience tells Brooklyn that Minka doesn’t handle disappointment well.
The Winslow family, owners of the private collection, are acting strangely, and Brooklyn overheard Mr. and Mrs. Winslow argue about a problem with “the book”. Were they referring to the Faust or an old family bible that Abraham had also been restoring? Did her mentor discover family secrets worth killing over?
Even Brooklyn’s own mother can’t escape suspicion. Brooklyn saw her sneaking down to Abraham’s work room shortly before he was killed.
Derek Stone, a British security officer hired for the private showing, vacillates between suspecting Brooklyn and wanting to protect her. Eclectic best friend Robin keeps Brooklyn occupied when she’s not searching for answers. And if she’s searching for answers to more philosophical questions, she can always ask Guru Bob, the spiritually and financially successful commune leader.
Brooklyn makes a delightful sleuth, and the details about book restoration are a fascinating addition to a mystery that’s a joy to read.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Is anybody out there? Now you are thinking, “OMG, this writing stuff is harder than I thought it was going to be. Do other people really do all this?” Find out by joining several writers’ organizations in your chosen writing genre. (Mystery writers have groups like Sisters-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America.) After you join, talk to other members and find out if they are going through the same things and are as nervous as you are. (The answer is yes, but still ask.)
Go to events sponsored by these groups. Meet other people who are going through the same things you are, or talk to those who have progressed a little further and learn more of the ropes from them, and share your experiences. Say hello to the featured speakers. Make contacts. There will come a time when you will be selling your book at an event and you will want people sitting in the audience listening to you. Be there for others and maybe they will be there for you.