Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's that time of year

I'm falling behind! This blog post is a day late. And, as you can see, I don't have a well thought out topic.

Since my daughter and my 14-month-old grandson came for a week, and my son-in-law for the Thanksgiving weekend, I pretty much took the whole week off. It was worth it--at the time. But I woke up to hundreds of emails this morning, and a late blog.

Now there will be email catch-up, blog catch-up, neglected manuscript catch-up, and, somewhere in there, Christmas shopping. It's a good thing the days are getting longer--oh wait! They're getting shorter. That's not right.

I do think I'll buy a lot of books for Christmas presents, besides giving my own as gifts. It's an easy package to wrap and ship and everyone reads. OK, not everyone does, but they should.

Is it a civic duty to give books to people, even if they might not read them? Is it the socially responsible thing to do? Reading stimulates the brain, raises IQ, and staves off senility. I have no studies to prove my statements, but I make them anyway, hoping they're true.

If you need something light to read while you're waiting for your ordered books to arrive, try this:

Just pick one or two at random. Surely the Darwin winners aren't readers!

Illustration public domain from wiki commons

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding Ways to Promote Your Book--Women's Day Ad

I'm always looking for new ways to promote my book, Nephilim. Or any of my other work for that matter. As authors, much of that falls on our shoulders! There are lots of ways to advertise without spending a dime. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, webpages--these have become the staples of book promotions. Recently, I did a virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book and absolutely loved it! Yes, it was something I had to pay for, but it did get my name out there in places I wouldn't have begun to think about, and it garnered some honest reviews about Nephilim. Has it helped sales? I'm not sure yet as I haven't gotten my publisher's statement for October.

Another great opportunity that my publisher provided me with was the chance to place in ad in Women's Day Magazine. Again, I had to pay for it, but Women's Day is a highly circulated magazine and can be found everywhere. My book, Nephilim, had a spot in the Halloween issue and also in the new Christmas issue pictured above.

 I really like the layout of the latest ad, too! Will it generate more sales? Only time can tell me that!

What have you done as an author to promote your work? How far would you go? What's too far? Since many of the followers of this blog are independent authors, I'm curious to know what promotional tools have worked for you outside of social media. Please drop a comment and share with the group!

Monday, November 21, 2011


I'm posting this just before dashing out the door to meet an airplane. Just after dashing to WalMart for a baby car seat, rear-facing, and a lame attempt at installation. We're hoping our daughter, the baby's mother, will make the necessary adjustments.

I'm sure this is how Steve felt yesterday, making a mad dash to be on time for our radio interview, but getting lost and not quite making it. Mary Ann and I filled in and Hopeton Hay made sure we got Steve mentioned!

Hopeton ushered us into a studio room and I remarked that it was a different one than where he recorded my solo interview a few months ago. When he said this was the "live" studio, my heart stopped. Live? We're going to broadcast live?

Neither Mary Ann nor I had enough time to get as nervous as we could have, and I think it went off OK. As soon as we get the recording of it, it'll be here!

Mr. Hay, by the way, is unpaid, as are all the on air personalities at KAZI FM 88.9. It's a non-profit, community based station, run by people doing it for the love of it. I'm glad Hopeton loves mysteries and interviews authors on his Sunday afternoon show!

(Hint: books make great holiday gifts! See sidebar for ideas.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Your Fans and You

So, as you probably noticed by now, we all went to Comic Con last weekend. While there, our booth was right down the aisle from several of the cast members of Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show. Specifically the characters Harmony, Clem, Cordy, Drusilla, and Spike. I resisted as long as I could, but soon found myself standing in line to pay $30-$40 each for a set of their autographs.

Don’t judge me.

Anyway, here’s my point. I walked away from that aisle with five signatures, and five completely different impressions of these people. For example, Cordy (Charisma Carpenter) was very nice, and sweet, and she smiled at me politely, but I really got the feeling she couldn’t wait for me to be gone. Spike (James Marsters) on the other hand, seemed to connect with everyone he talked to. At three minutes before he was supposed to sit on a panel, he didn’t seem concerned in the least that the woman in front of me didn’t have any money for an autograph and just wanted to shake his hand and talk to him a few minutes. He thanked her like she was the first fan he ever had, and he found something in her words he could use to bond with her. On a related side note, Clem (James Charles Leary) was so cool I could write an entire essay on him, but I’ll save that for another day.

So how does this relate to you? Well, most likely you are a writer of some sort. Whether you just blog, have an unhealthy twitter addiction, write short stories for magazines, self-publish, or have a best-selling novel out there, someday you will meet at least one fan face-to-face. They may be someone you went to high school with, or someone who flew across the country to stand in line and shake your hand. Either way, a chance encounter for you will be a Significant Emotional Event for them, and they will remember the nuances of that moment for a long time. Treat them like the gold they are. You touched them in some way, and your words affected them enough that they think a few seconds with you or an autograph has real worth. When you find yourself in that moment, do your best to prove them right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Pitch: How Important Is It?

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Austin Comic Con with my fellow writers from All Things Writing, Kaye George and Steve Metze. I'd been to the convention last year as an observer and found the whole thing to be really entertaining. Austin Comic Con is a place where you will find all kinds of unique and fun people who are passionate about comics, TV, celebrities, art, costumes, steampunk, action figures, and anything else you can possibly think of. I met some interesting characters who will be popping up in future short stories!

The reason why we attended was because we wanted to sell our new book All Things Dark and Dastardly, and Steve was kind enough to allow us to use his table space! So in addition to all the amazing steampunk gear and gizmos that Steve was selling, there were our novels. Now, if you've ever been to any kind of convention where things are sold, you know that the key is getting a potential buyer hooked on the product. You have to make them think they need it, they can't live without it, that somehow they will be better looking or thinner if they purchase it. It's all about how you spin the pitch!

And this was the most important thing I learned this weekend: I suck at pitching a book.

Yes. It's true. I have a BFA in Theatre Arts. I teach dramatics to my students every day of the school year, but when it comes down to selling my own stuff, I clam up! I smile. I nod. I can answer questions. But I can't begin a conversation about my book!

I think this is due to the way I was brought up.

It isn't polite to talk about yourself to others because that could sound like bragging. You don't want to make anyone feel like they have to do something. Don't be a pest by mentioning that you are selling girl scout cookies.

Since that philosophy is deeply ingrained in my head, it's hard to feel comfortable talking to people about my book or why they should buy it. It makes me feel like I'm giving a really bad book report, and the teacher totally knows that I didn't do my homework or something. Unfortunately, this works against me as an independent author. Since I don't have an agent, face time with potential customers is definitely in my future. Ugh...

On the other hand, I did have the chance to watch Steve and Kaye work their mojo with people. Steve is especially good at getting people to come to the table. That's because he is 100% in character when he is pitching the things he sells. He isn't afraid to call out to the crowd or throw seemingly random info out about the things he created. True, he has a deeper emotional investment in getting his items to sell (money is money, after all, and it cost a lot to make steampunk things and rent a booth at Comic Con), but I felt like he could have worked for P.T. Barnum back in the day and been quite successful. Watching him was like watching a true master of the art of salesmanship. Kaye is also good at chatting up customers. She knows how to strike up a conversation with random people and quickly get them interested in finding out more about our books. I think she collected quite a few business cards from different authors that will come in very handy down the road.

So how important is the pitch? Very. From what I saw, it was key in making a sale. All the things you read about regarding knowing your audience and understanding how to make your work sound interesting is true. Being personable without being pushy is a must. Sounding relaxed and calm is helpful as it puts your customer at ease. Chatting with them about other topics other than just your book or product is a nice touch, too. It shows you care, and whether you do or not, I've always heard the saying, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." So true.

I think a lot of authors think of the pitch is something that is just for agents or publishers. Not true. Even if you have one of those things, you are still going to be in situations where you have to be able to talk about your book to other people. It takes practice and a little thought, too. Yes, you may know your book inside and out, but what do you say when people ask you what its about? Can you get down to a bit sized couple of sentences that zing and make the listener want to know more?

If you haven't guessed, that's one of my new personal goals: getting down the pitch. I have one for Nephilim, and I'm working on one for All Things Dark and Dastardly. Now the key is practicing them. Luckily, I'll have lots of opportunities in the future to do just that!

So how is your pitch? If I asked you for it right now, could you do it?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

This is the brilliant brainchild of Jenny Milchman. Jenny has long been an advocate for writers, posting their Made It Moments on her blog, Suspense Your Disbelief, regularly. All her supporters cheered when her book found a publisher this year! Look for it next year.

Now she's advocating for bookstores with Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which started last year and continues expanding in December of this year.

(An offshoot has been Take Your Child to a Library Day.)

Here at All Things Writing, we're doing our part. We're signing at Hill Country Bookstore on TYCTAB Day! Mark December 3rd on your calendar, from 2-4:00.

This should be a fun time since the  historic Georgetown, TX, square will be decorated for the holidays. In addition, that's the day of the Georgetown ChristmasStroll.

If you're anywhere near the Austin area, stop and see us signing "All Things Dark and Dastardly". I know, not a Holiday theme (well, it's thematic for Halloween), but a great gift item for those on your list who like dark short stories.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Comic Con Austin is coming this weekend

For many of you, this means very little. You probably never read comics or, like me, you gave them up (OK, most of them) somewhere in your teens. Well I’m going this weekend, as should you, and we don’t have to crack open a single comic book while we’re there. True, I’ll be selling stuff there and you probably didn’t pay for a booth, but that isn’t the point. The All Things Writing crew and I will be selling top hats, Steampunk goggles, The Zombie Monologues, All Things Dark and Dastardly, a Steampunk role-playing-game, zombie T-shirts, vampire hunter kits, Victorian coins, Alice in Wonderland “Drink Me” bottles, and the list goes on.

Let us assume that you did not spend the last few months crafting a room full of wacky merchandice to sell like I did. Probably a safe bet. I mentioned that stuff to give you an idea of what I think will sell there. Now picture the audience that would be interested in that spectrum of items, and the odds are good that some of them are the same types of folks who would be interested in something you’d write some day, or have already written. Still, why does this mean you should go to Comic Con Austin?

1) Your audience might be there – A chance to see what your readers might be interested in. All the agents say you shouldn’t write to trends because the trends are bound to have passed before you get your book published. Still, it never hurts to know what they are and try to guess where they are going.

2) It is rife with “characters” – Many people will be in costumes, and they may or may not be acting out there outward persona. Regardless, this is a perfect chance to do some people-watching in a realm you probably don’t know all that well, and take some notes. When you see someone with the absolutely wrong body type for the superhero they are impersonating, but they don’t seem to care at all about your opinion on how they look in spandex, there’s a story in there somewhere. And the two kids wearing the dark evil “goth” versions of Dr. Seuss characters? Something is going on there too. I won’t even bring up the woman in the blue full body paint under the ancient Spartan armor or the guy who has knitted a suit out of the Magic collectable card game cards.

3) I promise you will see at least one thing there you weren’t expecting – And isn’t that just the sort of little detail that makes books interesting? You might find that one concept you can write down and keep for later. At Comicpalooza some guy brought in a life-sized Dalek robot from the Dr. Who series that actually drove around by remote control. I saw a little kid really think he got to meet superman next to a booth filled with hundreds of cooing tribbles. I saw a whole stand dedicated to “what if superheroes turned into zombies” art. I saw a comic book cover with an Über sexualized Steampunk Sarah Palin on it. I took a picture, but honestly I was afraid to peek inside.

You thought I was kidding, didn't you?

Let’s face it, no matter what genre you write, the sheer energy and creativity of the place is bound to inspire you in SOME way. If you've never been before, or even if you have, come check out the Wizard's World Austin Comic Con this Friday-Sunday, November 11-13. Be sure to drop by the our booth (#428) and say hi to the All Things Writing crew, as well as pick up your copy of All Things Dark and Dastardly… or The Zombie Monologues, or a Steampunk role-playing-game, or some goggles or…

Monday, November 7, 2011


This is a blog about promotion, not a promotional blog. (Well, OK, I'll work in a little--what do you expect?)

We're just starting out to promote our short story anthology, ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY, and I'm wondering if I've learned anything from promoting my mystery novel (CHOKE) for nearly 8 months now.

Here's what I've done for CHOKE:
Lots of guest blogs
Signings at book stores (3)
Appearances at libraries (2)
A radio interview
Requested reviews, some of which have happened
(This requires giving away a lot of books)
Attending two mystery conferences since publication
Announcements on most of the lists I belong to
My own blog
Speaker at a local writers' group
Mention in a mystery newsletter

I attempted to get an article in my hometown newspaper to promote a local signing. That was a fail, but the town where I was signing ran my article. And the hometown paper later did an interview of me.

The most successful, as far as I can tell, were the local writers' group, one of the library gigs, the mystery newsletter mention, and the store signings. It's possible that some of the other things worked, but just not immediately so that I could measure them. I don't know if we'll try all these things, or different ones, but we'll sure try.

Now, we need to figure out how to promote the anthology. We're starting out with a few blog posts (http://www.cncbooks.com/blog/2011/10/14/crossing-over/ and http://spec-fic.rainyofthedark.com/?p=201 so far, more to come we hope), a radio interview in a couple weeks, and a signing lined up on December 3rd, 2-4 PM, at Hill Country Bookstore in Georgetown. We're attending Austin's Comic Con next week (booth 428). There will be more about that here closer to the date. Here we go!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anyone NaNoWrimoing?

It's November. The scent of writing ambition is in the air! That means writers everywhere are feverishly bent over their computers, typing away at 1667 words (give or take) a day as they participate in National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo.

Not me.

I've done it for three years and find it to be lots of fun. However, this year I've got to move on and think about other projects. That's the way it works for a writer who is determined to keep publishing and promoting current books like Nephilim and All Things Dark and Dastardly. Still don't have your copy? Click on the links to the side or at the top of the page to get yours today!

Okay, enough with the shameless plug.

Another writer asked me if I thought there was value in participating in NaNoWriMo. Does it ever come to anything? Aren't "would-be" authors just filling the market place with badly written manuscripts once the process is over?

Yes and no. I think there can be great value in writing a 50,000 word novel in a month. It's a good way to come up with a rough draft for a project or to test out a genre you've been thinking about trying. With the no editing clause that comes with undertaking Nano, you can just turn your inner editor off and write for the sheer joy of writing. No need to worry over spelling, pacing, stilted dialogue or unbelievable characters! It's very freeing.

On the flip side, I do hear horror stories about writers who write the 50,000 words, don't really edit it, and then send it off to agents or publishers expecting to be signed. Those are the people who give the process a bad reputation. I don't care who you are. Nobody writes a perfect novel the first time without editing. Nobody. Go back and spend some time fleshing out your story, beefing up those characters, and cleaning up the dialogue before you get your heart broken with rejection!

But that's just me. What's your opinion on National Novel Writing Month?