Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Misa Ramirez Visits the Lair!

posted by Jo Robertson

Today we're fortunate to have writer Misa Ramirez, aka Melissa Bourbon, return to the Lair.

Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, gave up teaching middle and high school kids in Northern California to write full-time amidst horses and Longhorns in North Texas. She fantasizes about spending summers writing in quaint, cozy locales, has a love/hate relationship with yoga and chocolate, is devoted to her family, and can’t believe she’s lucky enough to be living the life of her dreams. She is the marketing director at Entangled Publishing, is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery series with St. Martin’s Minotaur, A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series with NAL, and is the co-author of The Tricked-out Toolbox with Turquoise Morning Press.

Please give Misa a hearty welcome.

Lucille Ball famously said, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.” I embody that quote and all that it means.

Let me start with this background info: I’m a wife. I’m a mother of 5 kids, aged 8-18. I teach online classes. I teach at a local university. I’m on the board of my kids’ elementary school’s PTA. I’m creating the yearbook for that school. Just me, no help (how did that happen, anyway?). I run Books on the House ( I co-founded The Naked Hero ( I co-founded The Writer’s Guide to ePublishing ( I write. I’m the Marketing Director for Entangled Publishing. I’m sure there’s more, I just can’t think of it right now.

The bottom line? Writing is my passion. I am a former middle school and high school teacher, and, as I said, I still teach online with Savvy Authors, RWA, and at Southern Methodist University’s Cape Creative Writing program. Teaching, I think, is in my blood and always will be. But slowly, my passion for writing has taken over a huge part of my life. It’s what I do. It’s become a large part of my self-identity, and I love every bit of it. Mostly, I love the actual process of writing.

A Deadly Curse, my newest romantic suspense, is based on the Mexican legend of la Llorona. I love this book. A reader recently called it “chilling” and another said, “This is a creepy book, in the very best sense of the word...a fast-paced story with a surprise twist at the end that I, at least, didn't see coming. Highly recommended!”

Here's the blurb on A Deadly Curse:

Most people think the Spanish legend of la Llorona, a woman who killed her children to be with the man she loved, is just a story. High school teacher, Johanna Rios, knows the truth. A descendant of la Llorona’s one surviving child, Joanna’s mother fell victim to the curse, drowning as she tried to kill Johanna and her sister Carmen. When one of Johanna’s former students, dressed in a white peasant dress like the crying woman herself, turns up drowned in the San Julio River, Johanna’s world turns upside down.

The curse is back.

Single father Ray Vargas is filled with guilt. His daughter’s friend, a former student from the high school where he’s principal, is dead and he could have prevented it. When Johanna Rios, one of his teachers, reveals her obsession with la Llorona and thinks three more people will die, each one representing a different version of the crying woman’s story, he will do whatever it takes to stop the killings from happening.

But with danger closing in and his own daughter at risk, Ray must join forces with Johanna to confront the legend, the curse, and the man behind the killings.

The second book, A Deadly Sacrifice (chupacabras, ranchers, and a curandera, oh my!) will be out in April. I also have a new cozy mystery series with NAL. Pleating for Mercy debuts August 2nd.

And I’m thrilled beyond belief that my Lola Cruz mystery series will continue--release date at the end of 2011. Woot!

My writing fills my life. So why, then, did I take on the position of Marketing Director for Entangled Publishing, a boutique publisher filling the space between traditional publishing and self/indie/mass quantity ePublishers? Because in the process of writing and promoting my own books, marketing has become an offshoot passion, something I’m good at, and something I want to help other authors with.

Finding a piece of the publishing industry that I really believe in has been a huge thrill, and I believe in Entangled Publishing, what they stand for, and how they do business. Throwing your book out there and crossing your fingers that it sprouts wings and flies is all well and good. It happens to a few fortunate people. It does not happen to most of us. We have to create our opportunities.

This realization led me to create Books on the House, a site bringing books and readers together under one roof. Every week, readers give away copies of their books...for free. It also led me to co-author (with Tonya Kappes []) The Tricked-out Toolbox: Promotion and Marketing Tools Every Writer Needs

This book is a practical guide to promotion and writing and chock full of ideas, tips, and resources to make the most of your time, energy, and marketing dollars. Because of these two endeavors, I was well-primed to take on the role of Marketing Director for Entangled. Entangled has a phenomenal management and editorial team, and the marketing department, led by me, is just one of the many elements which sets us apart. We are a boutique agency, part of which means we have a very strong focus on building relationships between the publicists and the authors they represent, leveraging each authors’ strengths, and gaining maximum exposure for each and every book.

There’s no silver bullet to success. Mostly it’s hard work. And that’s on top of the hard work required when writing a book. Even with a stellar marketing department behind you (and I’m here to tell you that most publishers do not devote the time, energy, or money to promote each of its authors/books), it’s up to each author to do what he or she can to build a career and garner sales. In the day and age of e-books, independent digital publishers, bricks and mortar stores closing left and right (it was announced recently that Borders is closing 28 more stores), and the changing face of publishing, marketing and promotion have never been more important.

Getting your book in front of readers is paramount, but how do you do that? Here are some intentional things you can do to market and promote your books (these are covered in detail in The Tricked-out Toolbox): • understand your PR personality • build an action plan • set goals • set a budget • brand yourself • have a professional and effective website • blog, grog, or otherwise having an online presence • understand theme and audience • participate in online groups, loops, and social networking • think about swag, book trailers, and other promo materials • network • set up opt-in mailing lists • use ethical bribes (or bartering) • have a press kit • advertise • set up blog tours • use contests and giveaways • decide if book signings are for you • create a sell sheet.

Whew! That seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Starting with goal setting is key. Once you know your strengths and what you hope to achieve, you can set about building your action plan. Once you have a solid action plan, you can begin to put that plan into effect. Start with what you know you can do and work within your comfort zone. As you’re able, stretch yourself by tackling a task outside that safe place. No matter where you are in your publishing journey, it’s never too early to start creating a brand and promoting yourself. What are you doing now to fill your promotion and marketing toolbox?

I love the cover on Misa's book Pleating for Mercy. Here's a question for our readers: What makes you pick up a book.... the cover? The title? Author blurbs? And how do you feel about indie-pubbed books verses traditional NY pubbed books? Are you willing to take a chance on an indie-pubbed book?


Slush said...

Hello Hello! :)

Slush said...

Welcome Melissa.

Some people tell me I take on too much at once, but you have me beat by 5 miles. I stand in absolute awe and bow down before you. "I'm not worthy".

The latest release A Deadly Curse sounds extremely interesting and it's going on my To Buy list... which is always growing.

I love the marketing insight. I am a student and employee in marketing too. Just a different branch, promotional marketing for products. It's refreshing to get this kind of info and helpful too! Thanks for coming back to the lair.

FYI: Banditas I cannot help but continue to express my love for your blog and guests.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Slush. How about sitting down with the rooster today and helping him set some goals? The way he flits back and forth across the states and the Pacific means he could use some long-term planning in his life LOL.

jo robertson said...

Slush, it took me a long time to learn to say no without a big weight of guilt about it.

Misa's energy and drive make my head spin!

Awww, shucks, we like you too!

Slush said...

Jo, I will gladly have a long chat with the Chook. But without the TimTams as a motivator I fear that he won't focus.

barb said...

Congrats Slush....just promise him that he will get tim tams in a few days and He should listen to you LOL

Hi Misa.... you certainly lead a busy life...I am retired but I never lead such a busy life as you before... congrats on your new book

Jo I at long last have learnt to say no without the guilt trip ... it has taken a long time... I do what I want....

Helen said...

Well done Slush he must be enjoying it at your place have fun with him


You are one busy Lady good on you and I agree with the saying that if you want something done ask someone who is busy I just don't seem to find the energy these days although I am busy most of the time I am trying to take it a bit easy at the moment and catch up on some reading and getting to know my new grandson Josh who was born on Monday.

I gotta say your books sound really good I do so love a romantic suspense.

Thanks Jo for inviting Melissa back today

have Fun

Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Misa! Man, I'm exhausted just listening to your to-do list! I think I'll go back to bed. :-)

Seriously, though, your work sounds amazing. And I love it that you wrote a book with a chupacabra (sp?). I used to work for the Houston Public Schools' outdoor ed program, taking city-bred 5th graders into the woods for a week at a pop. I heard a LOT about this chupacabra around the old campfire, which was a new one on this upper midwestern girl. Terrifying and yet...intriguing. I'll be looking for you on the shelves!

Misa said...

Thanks Jo and las banditas for having me back to the lair! It's a hoot-n-hollering good time here

When I read about my schedule I get tired, too! But living it is life, so it somehow all works out. I have trouble being idle. Maybe it's really that I don't want to do the laundry or clean my house, so by keeping busy, I eliminate the possibility for these things. Yes, I'm sure that's behind my entire schedule, come to think of it. ;)

Thanks for all the warm wishes and I hope y'all do check out A Deadly Curse (la Llorona is one spooky legend), and the soon to be released A Deadly Sacrifice.

Becke Davis said...

Misa! Great to see you here! This is one of my all-time favorite blogs and I haven't been here as often as I like lately. What fun to find you here my first day back from vacation. I'm so happy for all your success!

Becke Davis said...

Oops!I forgot to give a shout-out to our mutual friend TONYA KAPPES, another writer who has sold recently. (Several times!)

jo robertson said...

Oh, right, the chook does love him some tim tams!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Barb, doing what you want sure does make retirement nice!

jo robertson said...

Wow, Helen, congrats on the new grandson! I must've missed that announcement. I'm so envious. At the rate your family's going, you'll catch up with me in the grandkids department!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Susan! Misa is pretty amazing. She has so many irons in the fire and handles them beautifully.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Becke, thanks for stopping by!

Anna Sugden said...

Welcome back, Melissa!

OMG - your post wore me out! I'm such a slacker in comparison.

I like your thinking about why you do so much - I have the same idea, but don't get involved with quite so many things anymore.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Welcome back to the Lair, Misa!

And BIG THANX to Jo-Mama for roping you into a visit. With your busy schedule, it must have been difficult to squeeze us in. ;-)

I love that you bring in "paranormal elements" that are unusual. La Llorona sounds fascinating!

Best of luck on your new venture with Entangled.


Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Wow, you are busy. I think I need a nap just reading about all that. :)

It is interesting how things tend to get done best by the busiest people. Maybe it's because they're the best at organization and time management.

Good luck with all your many endeavors.

jo robertson said...

Misa, can you tell us a little about your August release, "Pleating for Mercy"? It's a great cover and I love the pun in the title.

catslady said...

They all sound wonderful. If I'm not buying a known author, a cover or title may catch my eye but then I read the blurb for my final decision.
I'll give any book pubished a chance!

Nancy Naigle said...

Hey, Misa
High 5 on making the time to make your own dreams come true. Sleep is overrated and multi-tasking is the way of the winners!!

I'm looking forward to learning a few tricks to help me move my debut novel through your Tricked Out Toolbox.

Jill James said...

Misa, great to 'see' you here. Can't wait for the Tricked-Out Toolbox to come out.

Louisa Cornell said...

Slush, can you come up with a schedule for the GR that compares to Misa's? That MIGHT keep him manageable!

When I grow up I want to be Misa! Wow! And I am INTRIGUED by the story of the curse. LOVE stuff like that. Pimping your books to my mystery loving friends as well!

You are definitely the type of person who says "Meh. I'll sleep when I'm dead!"

Now I am going to sit down and make up a better schedule of my time so I can get more done!

jo robertson said...

Good for you, Catslady. I like that Kindle has inexpensive downloads so you can see if you like a debut author or not without spending a lot of money.

But, the tried and true are my faves, of course. I'd buy an Anna Campbell or Tawny Weber sight unseen LOL.

jo robertson said...

Louisa, I want to be Misa too. I can't imagine how she juggles so many things all at once.

jo robertson said...

Jill, doesn't the Tricked Out Tool Box sound like just the thing for writers?

jo robertson said...

Hi, Nancy, Thanks for stopping by. I'm waiting for the release of Misa's instructional book for writers, too.

jo robertson said...

Trish, Cindy, and Anna S., thanks for stopping by today.

mariska said...

I need to read the blurbs or the excerpts when i want to pick up a book :)

Misa said...

Wow, what fun you guys are. Whenever I visit the lair, I have bandita envy.

Jo, Pleating for Mercy is the first book in a new cozy mystery series I'm writing for NAL. The first book will release in August. The second is called A Fitting End and will be out early 2012.

It's a Magical Dressmaking mystery series. Harlow Cassidy (a descendent of Butch Cassidy) is charmed (as are all the Cassidy women). If you guessed her charm has to do with her dressmaking, you'd be right! Think Project Runway meets Bewitched. I love the series and Harlow! Small town Texas (the town is called Bliss), and magic. What fun!

I LOVE the cover, too, especially Thelma Louise, the goat peeking through the window.

Misa said...

Thanks, Becke! It's always fun to be here! Tonya and I can't wait for the release of The Tricked-out Toolbox. Only a week, or so, to wait!!

Misa said...

Jo-Mama is the bomb, Aunt Cindy. But then again, las banditas are ALL the bombs.