Posted On April 15, 2011 by Print This Post

Holy Crap, I Won! with Ann Charles

Welcome Ann Charles, author of Nearly Departed In Deadwood! Today, Ann talks to us about her win – the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence! (and a little side nomination for the Golden Heart!)

Ann Charles - Nearly Departed In DeadwoodIn 2010, I was fortunate enough to win the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense with my book, Nearly Departed in Deadwood. After the shock wore off and the celebrations slowed, I returned home from Cloud Nine. Then I began to plan how I could make this contest win work for me. For the past year, I’d been building my platform, trying to increase my name recognition, and working on taking my writing career to the next level, whatever that was. Winning the Daphne came at a perfect time. I was ready for the boost.

Following are some of the ways I used the contest win to work for me:

1. Press Release: I wrote a press release and sent it to several small to mid-sized newspapers that covered the areas of the country where I knew my potential audience was the greatest.
2. Blogs: I accepted invites to post articles and participate in interviews on several blogs, spreading word about the win while networking with other writers and potential readers.
3. Book Cover: On the cover of my book, we put a big golden medallion to draw customers’ attention and inform them the book won a “National Award.”
4. Free Reads: Suddenly, many writers and readers were curious about my book, interested in reading bits of it. So, I shared excerpts of the story with them, making new friends and fans along the way. These same folks are bending over backward to help me sell the book now that it is out. They are wonderful!
5. Quotes: I mentioned the fact that the book won the Daphne when asking fellow authors if they would be willing to give me quotes/blurbs for it. The contest win helped me secure several excellent quotes.
6. Promotion: As soon as my book was published, I sent out email blasts telling everyone that a Daphne du Maurier winning book has been published. This was a slight twist on the usual, “My book is published!” email, and being different is good in a crowded market.
7. Thanks: Because my parents’ words stick with me even now, I try to continually remain humble about the win, keeping in mind that winning involves a lot of luck. I try to express my gratitude in print often for those who created/ran the contest and judged. Giving thanks is much appreciated in this industry. I always appreciate it when I’ve helped someone and they say “Thank you” and will be more willing to help them again in the future.
8. Daphne Contest: I try to promote the Daphne du Maurier contest whenever possible in voice and print. I also agreed to help judge this year’s Daphne entries again.
9. Blogs (again): I am touring the blogosphere now that my book is out, talking about all that winning the Daphne can do for a career in order to give other writers ideas and hope in this sometimes brutal business.
10. Tell the World: My publicist continually uses the Daphne win as a selling tool, such as showing those newspaper articles (see #1 above) that tell about my win. Also, on Amazon, I made sure there is mention of the win in my product description to help convince readers it’s worth their dime.

These are just some of the ways I’ve used the Daphne to work for me.

So, if you enter writing contests (or are thinking about entering a contest), I ask you: What will you do if you final in or win the contest (after your finish celebrating and sober up)? How will you make it work for you?

RU Interview

Ann Charles - Nearly Departed In DeadwoodRU: How many manuscripts did you write before you were published?
AC: I wrote eight manuscripts. Nearly Departed in Deadwood is number seven (I finished writing my eighth manuscript—the next book in the Deadwood Mystery Series, Optical Delusions in Deadwood—prior to getting Nearly Departed in Deadwood out the door). I’m currently writing my ninth manuscript, Dead Case in Deadwood, the third in the Deadwood Mystery series. Man, that was a lot of numbers ending in “th.” Ha!

RU: How long was it from the time you began writing seriously and the time you were published?
AC: I think it’s been over thirteen long years—too long to keep an accurate count. Although, I did get married, finish college, and have two kids in the midst of it all, plus work a full-time day job, so I have some rolling blackouts throughout parts of those years.

RU: Why do you think this particular manuscript sold?
AC: Because of several things: 1.) It won the Daphne du Maurier award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense; 2.) It has great audience potential built into it thanks to the setting and title; 3.) I have spent years building a platform and name recognition, which translates into a lot of supportive fans for the book right out of the gate (which appeals to a publisher).

RU: What surprised you about the sell?
AC: That it became more of a partnership than a sell. You see, I was offered an opportunity to partner with the publisher and share in all aspects of publishing my book. I’ve learned so much in the first three months of this year about the publishing business, and I have a better understanding as to why publishers make some of the decisions they do—decisions I often questioned as an author. While this has not been an easy venture for me, I enjoy having more control in the future of my book.

What challenges have you faced since you sold that you didn’t realize you would encounter?
AC: I had no idea of the many hurdles when it comes to getting a book out through as many distribution channels as there are. I also didn’t realize there were so many distribution channels. It’s really incredible the networks that have been set up by publishers over the years, and the networks being built for eBook publishing now. It’s stressful, exciting, and fun all at the same time.

RU: Is there anything you wished you’d done before you sold?
AC: Written more books. I have four other books written and needing some work before going out to the world, but I wish I had an even bigger backlog of manuscripts. It’s much easier to fine-tune and edit than stare at that dang blinking cursor on a blank page.

What’s your best advice for writers who are still waiting to sell?
AC: Be patient. Publishing is not a game of quick wins and overnight successes. While you’re waiting to sell your book(s), work on building your platform so that when you sell, you have readers who want to buy your book. Five years ago, I asked myself the following question: If I had a book published, who would buy it besides my mother? That’s when I realized I had a lot of pre-publishing work to do and got busy building an audience for my books.

RU: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with the Romance University readers?
AC: Yes, another bit of advice—test everything. I am constantly testing my “products” to see what gives me the response I’m looking for from a reader/fan. When I say in my Acknowledgments that it takes a village to make Ann Charles successful, I’m not just blowing hot air. I have many readers and editors, several for every draft. I also test promotional products on my friends and fans. I test ideas and articles on others. Everything. The world is my QA lab, and I’m out to deliver high-quality products, whether the products are stories, book posters, key chains, workshops, or whatever.

RU: And last, will you tell us all about your debut book?
AC: I’d love to!

Irony is having a big ol’ fiesta and Violet Parker is the piñata. Little girls are vanishing from Deadwood, South Dakota, and Violet’s daughter could be next. Short on time and long on worry, she’s desperate to find the monster behind the abductions. But with her jerkoff co-worker trying to get her fired, a secret admirer sending creepy love poems, and a sexy-as-hell stranger hiding skeletons in his closet, Violet just might end up as one of Deadwood’s dearly departed.

“The first time I came to Deadwood, I got shot in the ass.”—Violet Parker, Chapter 1

Nearly Departed in Deadwood is the first of many books in the Deadwood Mystery Series. It has mystery, romance, suspense, and paranormal—all in one big genre stew. It’s available all over God’s green earth, and we’re working to make it available on the moon, too.

Stay tuned for Violet Parker’s second book, Optical Delusions in Deadwood, which will be released in May 2011 as an eBook and July 2011 as a print book.


RU Writers – have you thought of how your life might change with a contest win?

Join us on Monday as NYT Best Selling Author Lori Wilde talks about the differences in writing contemporary romance and external plot-driven sub-genres like romantic suspense.


Ann Charles is an award-winning author who writes romantic mysteries that are splashed with humor. Her debut mystery, Nearly Departed in Deadwood (Released in January 2011) not only won the 2010 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense, but also has been selected as a finalist in the 2011 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® contest. A member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and RWA for many moons, she has a B.A. in English
with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington.

When she is not dabbling in fiction, she is penning writing-related articles or standing on her workshop soapbox, sharing what she has learned over the years about the craft and self-promotion. Visit her at or

You can also find her at, where she and over two dozen other authors, reviewers, and PR consultants have joined together to teach and share (and learn from each other) all sorts of great information about promotion for both unpublished and published authors.

She lives near Seattle with her clever husband, charming children, and one incredibly sassy cat.

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23 Responses to “Holy Crap, I Won! with Ann Charles”

  1. Hi Ann,

    As I mentioned at the chat last night, it was a blast to be sitting beside you when the announcement of your win came. Incredibly exciting, and I had only just met you earlier in the week.

    Do you think a writer can make all contest wins work for them in this way, or does a Daphne winner carry more prestige?


    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | April 15, 2011, 4:22 am
    • I think the Daphne is a big boost due to it being so well-known. However, I think you can make a lot of contests work for you. It’s all in your attitude and the presentation. Sure, there will be some who poo-poo you, but that’s an insecurity on their part. Don’t turn it into one of yours. This is a cut-throat business. Use every tool you can, every contest.

      Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 10:45 am
  2. Hi Ann. As Tracey said, it was so much fun getting to sit with you when you won. It’s giving me goosebumps just thinking about it!

    How long were you trying to find a home for this book before it won the Daphne?

    Thanks for a fun post! I love the line about Violet getting shot in the ass. Great stuff.

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 15, 2011, 6:12 am
    • Adrienne (and Tracey)–I love that you guys were there. It’s one of my favorite memories, and sharing it with you two and Kelsey and the others there (Polly, Robin, Linda, and Wendy) is so wonderful.

      Regarding how long I’d been trying to find a home for the book, I’d finished writing it in the summer of 2009. It made it to acquisitions at Mira that September and then was rejected. It made the NY rounds more that fall and winter, rejected time and again not for the writing, but due to the marketability. I entered it in the Daphne in early 2010.

      Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 10:49 am
  3. Ann, congrats on all your successes! And how smart to use your Daphne win like that. Love your blurb, too!

    Posted by Edie Ramer | April 15, 2011, 7:04 am
  4. Hi Ann,

    Congratulations on your book and win. I entered a contest and didn’t win, but two of the judges encouraged me to submit my manuscript. One went so far as to suggest publishers. I took their advice and got published last year. If you enter contests, read all the comments carefully, and remember to thank the judges for any feedback.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | April 15, 2011, 7:04 am
  5. Morning Ann!

    Thanks first for the great chat last night – what fun! Best of luck getting those purple cowboy boots….=)

    Are you going to enter any of your other books in contests? Or are your contest days behind you?

    Thanks for posting with us both last night and today!



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | April 15, 2011, 7:17 am
    • I don’t know about entering my other books. I may try some contests for published authors. Until now, I only entered contests for unpublished authors. Although, I’m limited on which I can enter due to the size of my publisher and some of the rules of various contests.

      I had a great time chatting with you all last night. I’m still chuckling about some of the stuff we talked about. Thanks for having me on RU this week.

      Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 10:53 am
  6. Ann- Congratulations again on the Daphne win and the GH final! It was so much fun chatting with you last night. I love the taste of Dearly Departed in Deadwood you gave us in your excerpt yesterday and this teaser today. I love the first line of Chapter 1!

    I’m groaning a little at your 13 year comment. I knew I should have started this sooner, but I was sidetracked by freelance non-fiction work. Hard to argue with a paycheck. I’m awed at your perseverance – I can’t imagine writing and completing stories while doing all those things you listed. (I suspect any one of them could have sidetracked me!)

    What are your thoughts on e-publishing? A friend of mine (a previous GH finalist) has just decided to self-publish, and ever since Barry Eisler’s announcement it seems a lot of authors are thinking along those lines. You mentioned all the distribution networks – do self-published authors have access to those?

    Finally, I’ve never managed to win a contest but I have finaled several times with different stories. I think it’s a lot easier to use a win for promotion than a final – unless it happens to be the GH! Or maybe the Golden Pen.

    I just finished judging several Daphne entries and they were really good! It’s a fun contest to judge – the standard of entries seems to be very high. I’ve sworn not to enter any contests this year, not until I finish this WIP. But in a surprising way, I’m finding it even more useful to judge contests. I’m learning a lot!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | April 15, 2011, 7:29 am
    • Becke,

      I know, 13 years–ugh. Right? Had I known it would take so long I might have chosen to go to med school instead. 😉

      Regarding e-publishing, I think that you need a few things to e-publish:
      1. A well-written story that has been edited by someone other than you. Editing can be expensive, but ebooks have a bad reputation for being unedited and full of errors. You want your ebook to shine. You want to put out the best, cleanest story possible.
      2. You need a quality, good-looking book cover image. Look at what’s out there in the top ebook slots on Kindle. Note the cover quality on the majority of the books. Without a good cover, you may lose customers right out of the gate. You have to make them want to look further, read the copy.
      3. You need to know how to promote your books. If you publish it, how will you get people to buy it? You have to sell it to people, draw them in, get them to look.

      As for distribution, that’s tricky. For ebooks, Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords premium distribution offer avenues into many of the major ereader markets. Print books, though, are tough. You need to hook up with a printer who is set up with a distribution network. Corvallis Press uses Lightning Source, which is a subdivision of Ingram. Distribution is key. If you can’t get your book out to the masses, you will only sell those that you can hand-sell.

      Great questions! Thanks for hanging out last night. 🙂

      Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 11:12 am
  7. Good morning, Ann!

    Fun chat last night. Readers, if you missed it, you can still see the transcript in the chat post ( and read more about Ann and her books.

    What do you think’s been the single most important building block in your platform? And what suggestions do you have for pre-published authors in finding resources to help them get organized for their platform development? Any great platform development workbooks out there? 🙂

    Happy Friday!

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 15, 2011, 7:56 am
    • Kelsey,

      Thanks again for inviting me to RU this week. I’ve had fun hanging out with you guys.

      The single most important building block in my platform? It would have to be the books I’ve written. I can do all of the other name recognition building, but without “product” I’d go nowhere. In the platform building classes Jacquie Rogers and I give, we always preach “writing first.” The second most important block currently would be co-creating and running 1st Turning Point. It’s opened a lot of doors, helped build name recognition, and introduced me to a lot of authors with whom I’ve become good friends. It’s a win-win site, although it has eaten up a lot of time.

      Suggestions for pre-published authors in finding resources to help get organized for platform development? That’s tough. There are a few of articles out there, included some on 1st Turning Point that I and others have written, but a lot of articles are aimed toward the published folks. Jacquie Rogers and I are creating a series of non-fiction ebooks called, “Nail It! The Secret to Building an Effective Fiction Writers Platform.” We have the first segment almost ready for publication, we are just waiting for Jacquie to return from a brief writing hiatus (she’s back east with family) before publishing it. The goal is to have it out this summer. Jacquie and I periodically give workshops on platform development, too.


      Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 11:48 am
  8. Ann,

    It was my great pleasure to cheer you on as you won the Daphne last year. Having read your book (more than once!), I can certainly attest to how deserving that award was! Great advice and great interview!


    Posted by Wendy Delaney | April 15, 2011, 6:25 pm
  9. Wendy, thanks for being there with me. That was a blast! I hope I get to join you in celebration as well!

    Posted by Ann Charles | April 15, 2011, 7:29 pm
  10. Ann and Romance University, I’m always late to the party. Ann wrote an incredible book. She’s very modest in saying it’s luck. Luck is a lottery winner. Talent takes the Overall Daphne Award. Four judges with perfect scores. Yep, she’d be better off buying that lottery ticket 🙂 Love Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Violet and her crazy sidekicks. A fun, fast read.

    Posted by Donnell | April 15, 2011, 11:22 pm
  11. Hi Donnell,

    Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for running an incredibly complex Daphne contest in 2010. I really should start buying lotto tickets. Maybe then I can quit my job a little sooner and travel around the country to meet all of the wonderful writers I’ve gotten to know thanks to the Daphne win. 🙂


    Posted by Ann Charles | April 17, 2011, 12:10 am


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