Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Trouble With Self Promotion


The Trouble With Self Promotion

 


After years of work, a great deal of time spent
writing, re-writing, abandoning, taking up again, and endless rounds of editing, self doubt, and convincing myself that no one will like it, I finally took the big plunge and queried, accepted a contract, and had a book published.
 

Now what?

Self promotion, that’s what.

 

No matter the size of the publisher, or if you go the traditional publisher route, small independent press, or self publish, nobody is going to know about or buy your book without promotion and a lot of it.  The smaller the company, the smaller the promotional budget they’ll have.  But regardless of the size of the company the bulk of the promotion will fall on the author’s shoulders.  It’s expected that you will take up that burden and run with it.  After all, who has your self-interest at heart more than you?  That means you, the writer, have to do a lot of work to promote yourself as an author and your book.

 

My first attempt at bulk/multi self promotion can be summed up with one word.  It’s not a good word so we’ll just say “Oh crap!” and leave it at that.
 

The trouble with self promotion, my trouble to be specific although guaranteed I’m not alone, could probably have been helped a great deal with being more prepared and organized.  But in such a big task it takes a lot of time to be prepared and organized in that huge world of promotion and, like writing a novel, that will be an ongoing work in progress.

 Anger and frustration.  Those are two good words to describe my experience.  The biggest challenges working against me: poor internet connection, a less than stellar working mouse (okay, its more dysfunctional than functional), and starting out already tired and frustrated, with an overdose of wild hyper kids to reduce any attempt at concentrating to a slathering glob of damn I wish I had a glass of wine and a quiet place.

 

So this is lesson one in How To Be A Writer – Promote Yourself & Your Book:

-              Distractions are a killer just as much here as when you are trying to write

-              Tired and grumpy?  Let’s find our happy place before we start.

-              Preparation and organization ahead, yeah let’s work on that.

-              A good internet connection and reliable computer are huge pluses, essential even.

-              Spending four hours or more fighting with the internet, computer, distractions, et al to post a measly 8 quick past and post attempts to promote your book sucks the big one and was probably a huge waste of time.



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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Every Character Is Somebody

I get incredibly lazy about character development in my first draft. This especially happens when it comes to secondary and background characters.


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When I’m in the throes of pounding at that keyboard, the words flowing through my fingertips as the story flourishes, or banging my head on the contraption in frustration, my focus is on the story. The big question of what happens next is what drives that first draft.

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In most of my stories I have no better idea than the reader does about what is going to happen next or even who the characters are. The story often changes from that initial hunch of what it will be about as the events play out. Hell, I’m just along for the ride, wherever my imagination decides to take us.

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Just like the reader I’m experiencing the story and meeting the characters as the events unfold.

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This is why it is perhaps even more important for someone who writes like I do to never forget that every character is somebody, no matter how small a bit part they play.

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What is more memorable? The story where everyone is a faceless nameless blank except the three or four main characters? Or one where old Mrs. Appleblossom down the street always wears a white flower either in her hat or tucked into her button hole, the absence of which could be a hidden (subliminal) hint of trouble to come?

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What about Mr. Commely, who’s only purpose in the story is to deliver the letter that gives your character the bad news? Does the reader need to know that Mr. Commely has returned to work after retiring because he’s lonely after his wife passed away, that he always has a gentle pat on the head waiting for even the most fiercest of mailman hating dogs on his route, or that his behavior is sometimes strange and erratic? It doesn’t drive the story forward, so some would argue this is just extra words that should be cut.

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The girl serving coffee through the drive through window probably doesn’t need to tell you that she’s having a bad morning. You can see it in her face. You don’t know her name and you probably don’t need to. But you can make the reader wonder why she’s having a bad day. Did she have a fight with her boyfriend? Was she reprimanded at work for being late again when she’s dealing with a serious crisis at home? Maybe she has a parent or child who is deathly ill. Why she looks unhappy isn’t important to the story. But just making the reader notice her sadness and wonder about it because your character did draws the reader further into becoming one with and sympathizing with your main character.

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When you go through the drive through yourself, that girl behind the window touches your life when she hands you your coffee and takes your money. It may only be a thirty-second moment, but those thirty seconds still touch your life.

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None of these bits about small characters drive the story and most of it can be left unsaid, back-story for these people who make only brief appearances. But dropping these little observations can add a depth of understanding and reality to the world your characters live in.

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If you write with a sense of familiarity will all your characters lives, the reader will pick up on it. Like watching someone waving to someone walking by from across the parking lot, you can get a sense if they are familiar with each other or just passing a friendly wave to an acquainted stranger.

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Some characters develop through the writing of that first draft. The main characters mostly get a lot of their character traits and flaws because their reactions and needs are what push the story forward. But with the rest they are lucky if they get dubbed as “frontdeskguy” or “girl2” as I write. Sometimes they are nothing more than a mention of “the other guy”.

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As the story unfolds, so do little hints into the characters that show up for repeat appearances. And as I learn more about where these bit players fall into the story, I also get a better understanding of how each of them can bring more life to the story.

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Like the young man in Men of Twelve (working name of a W.I.P.). The young man is an unimportant player, like the Start Trek guy who wears red to beam down to the planet. I know he’s going to die and the reader may get a sense of it too. That the trees mock him for being a nameless bastard without a father moments before his death does not drive the story, but it does add a layer of depth to the scene and the world the characters live in.

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It’s in the editing, when I go back over the story to re-write, revise, develop more, and delete than I put the emphasis on picking out each character from the biggest to the smallest and give them a little touch of personality.

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Bringing your characters to life brings the story to life. And, remembering that behind that blank nameless place holder in the story every character is somebody adds a touch of real life to your work. Behind the blank nameless face every person you see today is somebody too.


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Friday, April 26, 2013

Exhausted by Sidney Gaudet

Exhausted by Sidney Gaudet




Exhausted is like the color gray.

Like a hungry wolf that spend the whole night looking for food,

Or the soot you cleaned out of the fireplace.

It is like the clouds on a rainy day that woke me from my slumber,

Like the huge rock I tried to bring home.

Exhausted is like a heavy fish on the end of your fishing rod,

Like the smoke that comes from the chimney that you tried to clear all day.

Exhausted is like the cement you got stuck in before it dried and you have been using all your might to get out of,

Like grey eyed people’s eyes after a long day.






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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Scorpion Bay by Michael Murphy

Working as an investigative reporter and a prosecuting attorney respectively, Parker Knight and his wife both had jobs requiring secrecy and chasing down sensitive information.




Unfortunately for Parker, his wife has been more secretive lately.



Worse, his investigative reporting instincts bring him racing to the scene of an explosion that would rip his life apart.



Crassly snapping off photos of the scene, including an injured woman; Parker stops by the woman only to come face to face with the horror of the reality of the situation.



The woman is his wife Erica. He is helpless as she dies in his arms.



This is the start of events that pull Parker deeper into the mystery surrounding his wife’s death.



Parker is compelled to find out why his wife died and bring whoever planted the bomb to justice. With the help of his friend from his days in the Special Forces, Justin Kendall, and Justin’s girlfriend Tina Banks, he starts digging into the secrets behind Biotech and its CEO Harrison Bradley.



Together they follow the one elusive lead he has, Wildflower, a path that leads Parker into being dubbed a vigilante. Parker finds himself unwillingly embracing his identity as a vigilante despite its hindering his efforts to avenge his wife’s murder and bring the man he believes is responsible to justice.





The thing that initially drew me to want to read Scorpion Bay was a comment the author made once about how he was so charmed with Scorpion Bay, a real place, that it inspired him to write a book about it.



Michael Murphy did justice to both the place and the dangerous feel of the name. Scorpion Bay is more than an action packed mystery, it draws you into its web of intrigue and plays on sub plots that make you wonder where they will take you. Just when you think you figured it out you learn not to make any assumptions.




Scorpion Bay is published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC.



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Thursday, February 28, 2013

March Mayhem – MAIM - March Amend & Improve Mayham

Tomorrow is the first day of March; the month legend has it Mother Nature totally plays us with a game of lions vs. lambs. If it we enter into March with weather that is calm and quiet like the lamb we can predict the month will end with the weather roaring like a lion, wreaking Nature’s vengeance on us all.


Of course most of us don’t actually believe any of this stuff and year after year Mother Nature has let us down and forgot her game by the end o f the month.

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I do have my own prediction for March and it has little to do with the weather.

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March is three months after NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where writers around the globe pledge to put aside the daily vanities of life and throw themselves heart and soul into trying to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish in only the thirty days of November.

If you are like me that is three months during which you have completely put that NaNo novel out of your mind to focus on other things. For myself December is spent stressing over Christmas, worrying over the lack of money to afford what is required of you, and getting little else done. The other two months I focused on writing and editing other projects, giving no thought at all to The McAllister Farm.

Three months sounds like a good break to me.

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March also happens to be a free month, falling between Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever you celebrate around that time and the busy spring and summer time.

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I predict March is as good a time as any to go back and tackle that first revision of the NaNo novel. A no holds barred attack in the same spirit of NaNoWriMo.

After three months of pointedly not looking at it or even thinking about it, it’s time to give that NaNo novel its first dose of merciless and aggressive editing.

Don’t stop to think or analyze. First impressions are everything.

This is not a carefully thought out edit meant to fix grammar and spelling or smooth minor flaws.

MAIM (March Amend & Improve Mayhem) that NaNo novel. Attack it without care with a big fat red marking pen (or the electronic equivalent). Cut and slash anything that on first impression is off, weird, doesn’t work, or just seems like extra baggage.

Scribble notes all over it, whatever strikes you as you tackle the beast. It doesn’t matter if the notes make much sense, impressions can lead to something later.

Anything that comes to mind: observations, ideas, questions, random thoughts, character traits, back story, behind the scenes story, what should have been, things you should link, etc. Anything goes.

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EDIT: edit, deconstruct, improve, and transform that novel like you don’t care how perfect the final outcome is. This is only a first edit anyway.

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Take one month, March, to completely go over the WIP start to finish and tackle the obvious. Amend, research, and outright challenge yourself. “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote THAT?!”

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Starting tomorrow you have thirty-one days to beat that NaNo novel into submission, the iron master pounding a strip of iron into a shape that resembles the finished sword it will become.

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It’s madness, but it’s my madness.

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So tomorrow grab that NaNo WIP, put on your Mad Hatter hat, and pour the tea (wine in my case) and let’s have a writers’ editing party.

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And maybe just for fun, the next time you write/edit using the services of your computer accessed dictionary and thesaurus, try running it in a foreign language. Oh, the madness just never ends.

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