Skip to content

A PRESENTATION

September 28, 2016

As many marketers will tell you, just having a book published isn’t the end of the story. To get the word out, you’re going to need some kind of platform. It’s a lot easier if you write non-fiction. Your platform is usually the subject of your book or books. However, if you write fiction, what in the world are you going to use as your platform?

A platform might not have anything to do with your fiction subject, but let’s think about that. Say you write science fiction. Might you have a platform about cosplay, or maybe astronomy or something science related?

What about being a romance writer? How about a platform about love advice or relationships?

Westerns might give you an opportunity to start a platform for rodeos or western lore.

I took up a platform about writing. I’ve been doing that since 2012, long before my first book, Treasure Of The Umbrunna ever saw print.

Think about it. If you just put up a static web site with your book on it, what incentive do people have to go there when they can just as well go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble and the other on-line retailers? Same stuff.

If they want to find out your schedule, they can check out Facebook, but there are limitations to what you can post and not everyone likes Facebook. Some authors do just fine with only that. Depends.

A web site gives you more opportunities to attract an audience. That means, you need a platform to get people there besides just a static book page.

MY PLATFORM

My platform is writing. Since I’ve been writing for 21+ years now, I’ve picked up quite a bit about the craft. I decided a long time ago that, especially being into teaching given my background, I ought to set up something to pass it along.

I started with articles and “op-eds” on writing. I’ve run through a lot of subjects in 200+ blog articles.

In the meantime, I’ve also given several presentations to my writer’s group and others.

PRESENTATIONS

As a writer, one way or the other, eventually you’re going to have to give a presentation. Whether it has to do with your platform or just a talk about your book, you be there! You’ll have to stand up in front of people and speak…say something…talk to people.

Get over it!

In my case, since I had training for this, it was no big deal. I just planned, wrote a power point, and arranged through the wyberry (that’s library for those of you uninitiated to Fredspeak). I’m always looking for ways to promote my book and my writing and of course, if I’m going to do a presentation on some aspect of writing, guess what I’m going to have up there with me?

20160921_174045_002

            Yup, my book banner, right next to me at the podium.

Of course, I wasn’t done yet. Back at the desk full of pamphlets where people come through the door, I also placed business cards and bookmarks amongst the wyberry stuff as well.

20160921_174035_001

            I didn’t have any flyers, but that’s another story I discussed in my article A Book Signing.

My presentation on writing in multiple genres went very well. I had fourteen participants. Inevitably, my book came up as an example and it was discussed multiple times throughout the evening, though Treasure Of The Umbrunna was not the focus of the discussion. Whether that helps sales, who knows?

My main point, though, was to promote writing in general and that’s what I did. As a writer, you should develop a platform and be prepared to do presentations in whatever form they may be. Maybe it will be just to promote your book. Maybe it will be some other passion that you’re interested in.

I happen to be interested in writing and I enjoyed talking about writing. I wasn’t just there to promote my book. I was there to talk about writing and as a bonus, pitch my book.

My presentation is available here for you to look at if you have Power Point.

writing-in-multiple-genres

            Happy writing!

A BOOK SIGNING

September 21, 2016

And then, it happened!

Okay, I copped that infamous line from at least a dozen, if not more episodes of Sea Hunt. It was worth it.

It happened, alright. It surely happened (and don’t call me Shirley). If I need to tell you where I copped that line, well you aren’t no movie buff!

Anyway, I had my first solo book signing and at the risk of repeating myself, it was well worth it!

THE PRELIMINARIES

My solo event was organized by Barnes & Noble. The idea was to get as many people as possible to show up. The store pre-ordered a certain number of books, on the condition that my publisher accepts returns. That’s the big condition of a major retailer doing a book signing. Either you have to supply them the books, so they can sell them through their cash register at the retail price, which they don’t like to do because it isn’t in their system (more on that in a moment), or they order them from their supplier who accepts returns.

It’s not that retailers are so much against self-published books. However, when you self-publish, you have no distribution system. A large retailer deals with stock systems and distribution. This means inventory and returns etc. When you try to bring them something outside the system, it plays havoc with their books. In that regard, they just simply don’t like to deal with it.

In my case, since I did NOT self-publish, my book’s available through Ingram and Baker & Taylor distribution systems. Not only that, but it’s available through Barnes & Noble. At first, there was a glitch and it was cataloged wrong, but that was straightened out. When I got that cleared, the very nice lady in charge of things said yes to the book signing.

The difference between a small publisher and a large one is distribution. Because my publisher is not one of the top five, my book isn’t distributed to all the stores across the country. In that case, this local store ordered that set quantity for the book signing, on the guarantee the publisher would accept the returns. With that taken care of, it was a matter of pre-publicity.

Though Barnes & Noble posted the event on their web site, it was up to me to do my own marketing as well. I learned a few things.

First off, social media was by far, the best way to get the word out under these circumstances. I used Facebook and Twitter, even though 99.9% of my Twitter followers (1K+) don’t even live in Las Vegas.

On the other hand, I had some mailers and flyers printed. As for the flyers, I deliberately had them printed 5X7 because I figured the larger they are, the more likely someone would take them down from a bulletin board. The smaller size was more likely to stay up longer, even if they were smaller and drew less attention.

One little problem.

Have you noticed that almost nobody has bulletin boards anymore? I found that out the hard way! I went all over the place and found almost NO bulletin boards! When I did, I usually got “It can’t be for any money making event.” Say what???

Shot down in flames. I have a pack full of useless flyers and mailers. Oh yeah, about the mailers, I ended up just giving them to people that I either see all the time, or are already Facebook friends.

Lesson learned.

THE SETUP

The day of the event was tight. Since it was a Saturday, I unfortunately, usually have something going on with my astronomy club as well, and quite often miss my other writer’s group member’s book signings. I couldn’t very well miss my own! Right after this event, I had to rush home, pack my telescope and head to the north end of town for a public viewing session.

Anyway…I arrived at the store and they already had a table set up for me to the right of the main door, with my books displayed and a sign with a photo of my book. They also had a display screen with my book and name as you walk through that door above their Kindle display.

I brought my fold-out banner, my bookmarks and business cards. I also brought a note pad to write down complicated names for signings. I always do that in case someone has an unusual spelling of their name so I get it right, or if someone speaks softly or in a tone I can’t hear very well.

Finally, a key component, to attract extra attention and for a conversation starter, I added a candy bowl.

20160910_125006

            The store ordered fifteen books.

THE EVENT

The event went very well. The key to a book signing, now this is important, is to NOT sit at your chair (which they supplied) and just stare forward. Remember, you’re there to sell books, not wait for people to come and discover you!

20160910_125025

            Okay, right about where I’m standing, except I was on the other side of the table, is where I stood the entire two hours. I sat three times for about thirty seconds to rest my legs during lulls. When anyone came through that main door, which was to the right as seen in the photo, I stood and greeted people as they came through the door.

Some people avoided eye contact. I still said hi. Sometimes they responded, sometimes not. There are certain people you just know not to mess with. Some people are just shy and if you say hi and start talking to them, they respond. Some people if you say something, you can start a conversation.

Don’t be afraid to be rejected. Most will, but once in a while, someone will spark an interest.

The candy bowl was a great conversation starter. Sometimes it was just an avenue for kids. Sometimes adults with a sweet tooth. It made people hesitate.

I said hi to a lot of people. I found a lot of people didn’t read fantasy, but a few did as well. I explained the book to many. Some showed interest. Quite a few took my business cards and bookmarks, both which have the book title, ISBN and/or my web site.

RESULTS

As a result of my publicity, four people I know stopped by. Three bought a copy of the book. One stranger bought a copy as well. I went with no expectations. My goal was to sell at least one, so I outdid my expectations and then some!

That may not sound like much to some of you. However, consider how many book signings virtual unknown authors or even some very well-known authors go to where they don’t sell ANY books!

I think I did pretty well.

Oh…and I also got a maybe from one person who had to leave and catch a ride. We’ll see about that one.

In the end, the store asked me to autograph six copies of the book. The put “autographed by author” stickers on them and set all of the remaining books on a table by the door for a few days before transferring them to the local author wall in the back of the store.

I’ve been posting that on Facebook to let everyone know. Maybe some of those will eventually sell as well.

Folks, this is the life of a new author. Unless you’re up there on the New York Times Best Seller List, get used to it. You’ll be doing the same things.

Happy writing!

GET YOUR WRITING STRAIGHT

September 13, 2016

I’ve seen some pretty messed up, lazy writing and people make all kinds of excuses for doing so.

“Oh, it’s all about the story.” Yeah, sure.

Nobody considers that the reader has to suffer through this crap.

Nobody considers that readers may not be as dumb as some writers think they are.

Self-publishing can be good or it can be extremely bad.

Don’t blame it all on self-publishing. There are some conventionally published books out there with very bad writing.

Unfortunately, bad writers always point to these bad examples. “See? So and so did it, had a huge best-seller and did just fine!”

I don’t buy that. Sorry.

ALL OVER THE PLACE

Mary went to the store, idly browsing the pasta aisle. I looked at the shelf and told myself I’m going to get some spaghetti this time and I don’t care if Don doesn’t like it. I set the box of noodles in my cart.

            Joann approaches and gives Mary the up and down. I hate her. She’s such a slut.

            Mary noticed a presence behind her but ignored it. She knew who was there and doesn’t want to address the ho-bag Joann. She looks at another box of pasta.

Where do I even begin with this crap? Head-hopping? Mixing tenses from past to present? Mixed third and first-person?

This is the kind of bad writing I see plenty of in drafts, before editing, let alone stuff that actually gets published. Try reading 100K words of this!

MORE AND MORE NO RULES

More and more people are pushing, suggesting, down right advocating not to follow rules of writing because “all that matters is the story.”

You really notice it when you try to slog through a badly written tome then get to one where the author follows the rules and you breeze right through it. There’s a noticeable difference!

A noticeable difference.

People, getting lazy isn’t doing anyone no favors.

I’m not advocating being completely rigid, but geez, let’s get real.

When we talk about breaking a rule, we’re talking a little slip here and there, not out and out ignoring all of them!

As an author, why should you be the one accused of being functionally illiterate?

Think about it.

Happy writing!

OVERSATURATION

September 7, 2016

I was recently on a thread in one of my Facebook groups and a participant asked if anyone else though their fantasy genre was oversaturated.

Whatever genre or non-genre you write, have you ever felt that way? When you delve into your interest, do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of material out there? Do you feel like your swimming upstream?

THINK ABOUT IT

Say you’re a romance writer. Your focus is (naturally) on romance, so you concentrate on romance groups, other romance writers and romance novels. Ah, duhh. What do you think you’re going to find? Of course, you’re going to see hundreds, maybe thousands of novels in your genre.

What if you’re a literary author. Your focus is literary fiction. Guess what you’re going to find. “Literally” thousands of examples of what you’re up against.

Of course your field of focus is crowded.

OVERSATURATED?

There’s no such thing.

Since everyone has a unique voice, I go back to the Agatha Christie thing I like to use. Murder. There are so many ways you can kill someone with a gun. There are so many ways you can kill someone with a knife…poison…garrotte…polonium…what have you. They’ve all been done before.

The princess has been rescued a million ways before.

The bad guys have been headed off at the pass.

Folks. Everything has been done before.

VOICE VOICE VOICE

Why do these same stories keep getting told over and over again? Why do these supposedly “oversaturated” genres and non-genres keep getting more books published?

Simple.

Voice.

A unique voice and an unique way of telling the same old thing with a unique blend to make it that author’s own take is what makes every one of these stories different. Each individual author puts their own personality and voice into the same old same old and makes it something fresh and different. They add twists and turns and make them fun.

This is where you, the author, come in.

FORGET OVERSATURATION – PAY IT NO MIND

If you’re writing for market trends, or what you think will be hot, find another passion!

You need to follow your muse, follow your passion!

Forget about what you think might be oversaturated. Write what you feel and put your voice into it. You are what makes the story unique.

Happy writing!

INSPIRATION 2016

August 31, 2016

 

I make no secret of the fact that I get inspiration from the oddest places. I also talk quite a bit about it. This will make the fourth installation of my series on inspiration. What brought this on? As circumstances colluded this time, it happened to be the happiest place on earth.

DISNEYLAND

First off, I feel so fortunate to be close enough to visit a place I originally went to when I was four or five years old. I still remember sitting in a Toadmobile with my dad on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Every year we’ve been able, since moving to Las Vegas, I’ve snapped a photo out front of the ride with my grandson. We sit in the Toadmobile they have out front when you come out the exit door.

100_6667

            I remember when Nikita Khrushchev tried to visit the park back in the late 50’s, I think it was, but the state department refused him entry, citing “security concerns.” That was total bull. They just didn’t want the commie pinko faggot junkie doper to get any positive publicity out of the park.

We used to go there every year or two the entire time I grew up in Southern California. Those trips to the Wonderful World Of Color are still a strong memory for me. In many ways, they inspired me even way back when.

There was the Zorro costume I wore around the trailer park we lived in in Lompoc. My mom made it for me. On one trip to Disneyland, I copped a plastic epee and went around stabbing everyone in the ass with it. Maybe the reason I still have a moustache today is because of the fake one I used to have back then, care of Guy Williams, the actor who used to play Zorro.

Then there’s the Zorro album, or more correctly, The Songs Of Zorro And Others which had a lot of classic TV soundtracks from Disney TV shows, almost all of which I watched on the good old black and white TV. I still have that album!

The park is pure fantasy, from the Cinderella castle:

100_6675

            To the Matterhorn:

100_6661

WHY NOW?

Since we go every year, why now? Why is this year any different? True, I’ve mentioned Disneyland in past installments of this series, but haven’t been able to act upon it. Well, I haven’t been writing anything new for quite some time. I’ve been editing stuff already written. That’s the biggie.

Though I’ve been writing these very weekly articles as well as my autobiographical articles for Let’s Talk Nevada, I haven’t worked on either my fantasy or adventure thrillers or even icky bug (as far as anything new) for a while because I already had stuff in the can, so to speak. While I like to catalog ideas in my head, I already had a bunch of stuff stored away in my mind for book three of Meleena’s Adventures. In fact, against my normal routine, I actually wrote a few key things down on a yellow sticky which is now hanging above my computer monitor!

Folks, that is almost unprecedented for me. However, given my new writing habits over the past six years, I’m forced to write at least a few things down since I can’t write several hours a day like I used to.

Now, since I just started book #3 of Meleena’s Adventures, having turned in book #2, Gods Of The Blue Mountains to the publisher last month after a very detailed self-edit, I can now concentrate on writing something new in fiction again (except maybe another one-off short story here and there). Since I’m in writing mode, I have the ability to pull things out of the air, even refer to the ideas I wrote down when the time comes.

INSPIRATION – WHAT DID I COME UP WITH?

Here’s where I have to be careful and not give away spoilers!

To start off, I got a huge slap in the face going through Pirates of the Caribbean not once, but three times. Yup, because we went on a slow day, we were literally able to walk right in after a five minute wait. So, we returned several times. We love that ride! Going through there, I came up with an idea. The second time, it became a little more solid. By the third time, I didn’t even need to write it down.

No, I’m not going to write a Pirates clone. It’s just the seed for something else.

The Haunted Mansion. Same thing. We went in and I got that tingly feeling, especially since the “doom buggy” kept stopping for one issue or the other. We went on it twice.

Now, the oddest inspiration came on the drive home.

On the northbound 57, the Orange Freeway, we got stuck behind a tanker truck with a bad decal job at 5 in the morning. I looked at those crappy decals with the incomplete letters and voila! I got the name for a character!

That one I did write down.

Folks, you never know where these things will come from.

Happy writing!

USING TROPES IN YOUR STORY

August 24, 2016

Okay, this is directly inspired by a thread I saw on the Absolute Write Water Cooler forum the other day. I have several threads in there that I like to browse, besides the new stuff section (which includes everything), much of which I have no interest in. When something catches my eye, I might go to it and make a comment and never see it again, because I have no idea what thread it was in, even though the title of the forum it’s in is right there in the title of the thread along with the subject (hey, I don’t catch everything). I often never see any of the responses to mine because they get buried with other stuff by the time I visit the site again. Oh well…

Then again, there are my usual haunts which include Horror, Fantasy/Science Fiction and Thriller (whatever). I visit each pretty regular just to keep up with what’s going on in the genres for which I write. Anyone remember me talking about keeping up with your genres and doing your research?

Wayell…the thing is that I rarely read fantasy or science fiction because frankly, I don’t really like what’s out there. On the other hand, I love to read horror but rarely see it in the bookstore. Hence, I have to result to Absolute Write often to keep up on what’s going on in the genres. At least with horror (icky bug), I do get to read one on occasion. On the other hand, I have a plethora of fantasy and science fiction novels at my fingertips but my eyes glaze over when I’m in the bookstore. I often check the rather hefty section and look at all the titles. However, after checking the covers, book blurbs and leafing through the pages, I just don’t get that spark, that kick that compels me to try them out, at least I haven’t in a long time.

So, back to the gist of this conversation drawn from the ether. Tropes.

WHAT’S A TROPE?

A trope is a well-worn premise that’s often considered over-used in a story. For instance, a pauper that’s really a prince. You know, the old poor handsome (or beautiful), dirty street guy or gal that through trials and tribblations discovers he or she’s actually the prince or princess of the kingdom.

Elves, dwarves and orcs in fantasy. What makes these characters really tropes is when they all appear and act exactly stereotypical.

In romance, the “brother and sister” that are extremely attracted to each other, but know it can never be until they find out they’re not related.

In a murder mystery, the butler did it.

As Jimmy Durante probably never actually said, but gets credit for anyway, “I got a million of ‘em!”

WHY ARE TROPES BAD?

First off, tropes are bad because of the boredom factor. In this thirty-second attention span society (and I’m only generalizing here), people want something different.

Even if you run across someone who by a freak accident, has never read this particular trope before in literature, they’ve probably seen it on television or in the movies.

Like with anything, if done badly or just mediocre, it might as well not be done at all.

HOW CAN YOU MAKE TROPES GOOD?

It’s all in the telling or (gag) showing. It’s like every plot has been done a million times before. The difference is in the telling, in the voice, in the way you show it that makes it unique. When you put your own twists on it, you make it a unique story. This is when you take that well-worn trope and make it your own.

Okay, let’s take the pauper that’s really a prince trope in fantasy. Let’s say that in the end, though the character finds out the truth, they turn it down because they want to marry the peasant. They give it all away for love.

Hey, wait a moment. That’s been done like a thousand times as well!

How about this.

They give it all up for love, but by a twist, they don’t have to because the rules changed. They can be the prince or princess after all!

Hey…sorry been done as well!

How about this.

They give it all up because they don’t want the hassle, tell the lover to take a hike and go away with their good buddy to party away in the night!

The thing is, you can still use any of the above scenarios, the well-worn or the unique one. It’s all in the telling.

VOICE IS THE KEY

When you get down to it, since just about everything has been done at one time or the other, there’s very little ground that hasn’t been covered. Therefore, if you look at it that way, everything is a trope to someone. With that in mind, the key is your voice.

If all of this is overwhelming, it all boils down to following your muse.

Follow your muse and see what comes out in the wash. The key element is that when you’re writing, do not try to copy anyone else!

            If you follow that simple rule, it’s almost a guarantee it’ll come out in your voice. If not, well, that’s where the editing and rewrites come into play. The thing is, if you’re a writer, you should know all about that by now…or you’ll learn it soon enough.

A trope is not necessarily a bad thing. Using one or many like everyone else can be. What you need to do is put your own voice, your own twist into them. Make them your own and you should be okay.

Happy writing!

PROLOGUES

August 17, 2016

Prologues have come up time and time again in discussions, not only in my writer’s group, but in the various forums that I check out. Time to discuss it once again.

The big no-no for a long time at the writer’s conferences amongst agents and publishers were prologues. Some agents said absolutely not, while others kind of shrugged their heads and gave wishy-washy answers, leaving their take more ambivalent. Over the years, things have backed off a bit. While some agents, to this day, absolutely despise prologues, more and more are willing to consider them under certain circumstances.

THE FIRST PAGE READ

To understand why agents and publishers don’t like prologues, let’s take a look at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference’s very popular special event, which we now have as a regular happening, the First Page Read.

This “contest” that isn’t really a contest is where for a $5 donation (that goes to the student sponsorship program), attendees can submit the first page of their novel, short story or whatever. They can submit as many first pages as they want for $5 apiece. The pages are randomly selected and read at lunch on Friday and at dinner time until time runs out, usually an hour. If you’re “lucky” enough to be selected, a panel of agents and/or publishers will listen while it’s read and shown on a large screen. They’ll raise their hand the moment they’d stop reading.

After either everyone raises their hand, or the narrator gets to the end of the page, whichever comes first, the panel each gets a chance to say why they did or didn’t raise their hand.

There can be many reasons why they raise their hand, but the biggest reason is the author starts with backstory and nothing happens on that first page.

I repeat: Backstory and nothing happens on the first page.

A BIG REASON WHY AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS HATE PROLOGUES

When these people sift through hundreds if not thousands of manuscripts and writing samples a month, they usually get the start of each story. Right?

When an author sends the prologue and the first few chapters, which is of course, the start of the book, what often happens with the prologue?

The prologue starts with backstory! Nothing happens! The prologue is a setup that doesn’t need to be there. There’s no action, nothing that can’t be told later by other characters.

Now, think back on the first page read. What do you think these agents and publishers do when they see Prologue plastered across the top of the page and then nothing happens?

Sure, it’s bad enough when it says Chapter 1, or just as bad, it just starts with no heading at all and nothing happens. However, they just as often see Prologue or did for a long time. It’s hard not to develop a bias.

PROLOGUES ARE NOT ALL BAD

As many of you know, I read mostly thrillers and icky bug. They very often have prologues. In my own writing, I use prologues in both my adventure/thrillers and icky bug but don’t in my fantasy. It just doesn’t feel right in fantasy to me. It’s a matter of personal taste.

The prologue needs to be relevant. It needs to be something that cannot take place within the story without throwing the timeline or rhythm of the story out. It also needs for something to happen. It should be an action scene that takes place sometime in the past that explains or sets up something taking place in the timeframe of the present story. Or, it can be something that takes place right as the story begins to set it up. Pro-logue, something that previously happened, versus epi-logue, something that happens afterward.

Back to what I just said, the prologue needs to be relevant and should only be there if it’s the easiest or best way to tell that part of the story. It’s a tool just like plot devices. It’s neither good nor bad, it’s all in the execution.

One more thing, the prologue should be short and to the point. A bad one, in which I won’t name the author, was seventy pages long. That’s a bit excessive! It’s like, come on! Is the story from the back cover ever going to take place or what?

Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t use a prologue. Just make sure you do it with a bang.

Happy writing!