Tag Archives: public relations

Villains and Trojans

A writer without her computer is like a woman living in a pitch dark desert! A publicist without her computer is a professional on the edge of terror. Twelve days ago, (on my birthday, sheesh!) I was gifted some horrible, nasty, computer controlling villains who literally stopped my life dead in its tracks until the Tech Guru at the repair shop was able to revive my creative heart and send home a faster, more smooth, fully recovered and newly protected machine. 

I just wanted to share the ten levels of hell without my computer. I’m sure it’s not new to most of you, but it sure was new to me. 

1)      All my writing was out of reach. Computer gone, what’s a writer to do? I mean really, when was the last time you wrote with a pen and paper? Hell, I didn’t even have an empty spiral notebook to work with and found myself scribbling on those cute little lined yellow 5”x7” pads. Six of them. I used to really like those things too. Now I’m so traumatized (and finger cramped) by the experience, I may never be able to purchase a pack of those pads without having heart palpitations. Not to mention … I can’t read my handwriting!

2)      Where was I? You know the question. I have a laptop available but my backup was weeks out of date. All my novels are on the desktop. I had no way to truly pick up where I left off, and with the panic and stress of being overthrown by a whole Trojan army, I simply couldn’t think straight! But, I did what I could and kept on writing.

3)      I need ginko biloba, dammit! This publicist has clients … yes, clients … plural … in the dead center of several projects. I was faced with recreating at least two complete proposal outlines from memory. But there again, I trudged through, sigh.

4)      Where is everything? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I research is bookmarked in my internet listings. Everything I need for my writing, everything I need to keep up to date with in the publication and publicity business and everything I stored away for special client projects, past, present and future is in that list. Talk about having your hands tied!

5)      My email, now that was fun. I have Outlook Express which feeds from my yahoo account. Every time it fed into Outlook Express, it was filed appropriately and simply disappears from the yahoo account. Sooooo, from the moment I opened my laptop, I was in the dark. Who remembers email addresses or phone numbers these days? We’re so reliant on technology, all we do is hit a button or type in the first few letters and voila, connection. Seriously, I had to call everyone and tell them to email me so that I’d have an addy to work with! By this point, I had pulled out a large portion of my hair.

6)      The vacillating prognosis. Four days after dropping off my computer at the repair shop, after they’d quoted a price and promised that they could remove all the nasty stuff with no damage to my files, they called with bad news. Techie Guru was suddenly saying the Trojans were far too deep and everything would be lost … but, hold a minute, he’d call back in a few moments. His next call was semi good news, he could get all my files saved onto a disc, but the computer would be wiped clean and I’d need to put everything back on. Now, I’m about as computer savvy as a gnat, so this was extremely distressing. That, and the fact that it would cost even more to do this. Yes, I cried. Two days later, I received another call that they finally discovered the way to clean the nasty viruses off and everything would be just dandy. It was time for my coronary.

7)      Seeking technical support. Like a woman about to give birth, I talked to all my computer proficient friends and heard all the horrible possibilities. They told me that it still may not work out and I should be prepared for the worst. I think I may have had a stroke about then, my eye started to twitch and my head was about to explode.

8)      Seeking emotional support. Now I called all my friends and family. They were sympathetic, insisted that everything will be fine and yeah, that helped … a little. The twitch continued though.

9)      Seeking spiritual support. Yes, I went to church. I knelt at my bedside and folded my hands, praying to the God of computers to help me through all this. I even started reading Spirit Cards. That did help, a lot.

10)  The aftermath. Finally, my computer came home! It runs fast as a whip, has a full disc backup of everything that was on it and … well … looked all different. Needless to say, I was happy as a clam but confused for a good twenty-four hours until I could put everything back the way I’m used to seeing it. Guess I’m more a creature of habit than I thought. Now I have kick-ass protection and several fail safe procedures before anyone or anything can download a damn thing on my baby. And now … I can work and write again. 

Needless to say, the whole experience was horrible. I still have nightmares about it. But I’m nothing if not persistent and determined to use my tenacity to not only get back on track, but learn to roll with the punches. 

Where did I get the damaging Trojans? I followed a link on twitter. Techie Guru explained that it wasn’t placed there by the poster, that Trojans are out there, laying in wait until there’s a crack in the foundation then they attack. It has taken me a day or two to feel safe and comfortable enough to log on to twitter or follow a link, but sometimes a little faith is needed. 

Now, I’m back in the saddle again. Long gone are the days when using a Trojan meant being safe … now a Trojan means completely the opposite. I have chosen to trust my Tech Guru (who I actually asked to marry me, he was so kind and helpful and calm) and trust in the new security systems I now have installed on the computer. 

Onward and upward!

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The Person Underneath

Over the past few months, I’ve been interviewed and asked to write guest blogs on publicity, marketing, promotion and the processes of a writer. I think it’s about time to talk a little about who I am aside from that. We’re all a giant ball of a thousand things that make up the whole. Like a well developed character in a novel, we have layers of personality, likes, dislikes and obsessions that make up the image we portray to the world. Everything  buried has a prominent mark on what we do, how we do it and why. I thought it might be a good time to peel the onion and tell all (well some). This won’t take long, I’m not that interesting. 

Business PartnersThis is a picture of my cousin Charlene and me (that’s me in the stylish plaid jumpsuit). We grew up almost in each others pockets, had the same friends, the same teachers and on at least one occasion, shared the same boyfriend. She was the adventurous one, I was the follower. Once at around seven years old she sprinted across the street and I actually trailed after while her father charged to catch us. He caught my ponytail, thinking it was hers. We were so inseparable even Uncle Charlie couldn’t tell us apart. 

Charlene liked to dabble with the unknown and take the challenges; I liked to tag along (knowing full well we’d both be in deep doo doo if we got caught). She was the opening for me, the expansion that created the me I am today. 

Life and adulthood took over, we each married, had children and went our ways but we talk on the phone often. She lives in Florida, I’m in California. I miss her, or perhaps it’s just the craziness of our youth together I miss. These days I follow seldom and blaze my own paths, although I’m still glancing over my shoulder every now and then to see if Uncle Charlie is barreling down on me. 

This is the landscape of my life now. Aside from being a publicist and writer seeking publication, I’m a retired chef, mother of a grown son, grandmother, friend and roommate. Three years ago I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Los Angeles, yes drastic and the time between making the decision and actually moving was less than three weeks. At that point in my life, it was time for a BIG change. 

I’ve been married and divorced twice and to the shock and amazement of many, would actually try it again. I like the yin and yang of marriage, the symbiotic partnership and the dream of “happily every after”. Here’s the kicker, I also like the independence and empowerment of being single. There has to be a middle ground for this but I’m not sure I’ll find it in this lifetime. 

GOOD_F__VMy loves include English bulldogs, cooking and entertaining, experimenting with ideas and presentation, with deep thoughts and the ever present “what ifs” of life. I’m a problem solver in every room in my house from the kitchen to my home office, with a tight household budget, a tough cut of meat or a difficult client issue. 

I’m a spiritual person, a bit Catholic, a lot seeker and I’ve studied under a Native American medicine man. Everything in my life seems to focus on a spiritual guide post of some sort … an enlightened friend, family member or tarot card reader. I’m a universal believer, a Christian aware of the vast number of paths toward salvation. 

I love chocolate (who doesn’t?), the ocean, mountains and (yes) big cities. I love nature when it intrudes boldly with intense weather, something I sorely miss in Southern California. 

I’m not political and spend a mess of time seeking the center for any given situation. As a Scorpio that seems like a contradiction. An argument or heated blow-up has never helped me make headway in anything, so long ago I chose to pass on the drama. Maybe I’m a Scorpio by mistake. 

I enjoy movies, the black and white ones especially, and I think Russell Crowe is brilliant. I’m a stagnant music lover and never have been progressive in my preferences. Everything from classical to crooning 50s and up to classic rock fits the bill to accompany my work. Meatloaf, Beethoven, Rusted Root, The Eagles, Bing Crosby, Counting Crows. Yeah, not a big explorer where music is concerned. 

I love my family, so far away now, and talk to my three grandsons as often as possible. And … I wonder everyday what made me move so far away. 

I don’t get extremely sad but I can reach ecstatic panicles of joy over a clear winter California day when I can see snow on the San Gabriel Mountains from my house. Guess it just doesn’t take much to please me. 

I am a bunch of contradictions. I’m a social animal who seldom leaves the house. I love to laugh but often find myself deep in serious conversations of a metaphysical nature. I am creative and prolific with a client’s goals and budgets but can’t balance my own checkbook if my life depended on it. I totally adore counterpoints in flavors, ideology and personalities. I’m an acquired taste. 

There … see. Told you I’m not all that interesting but writing this all down has reminded me that I’m more than a publicist and struggling writer. I’m a whole person and I’m hungry, starving everyday for the success looming for my clients, finding publication for my own writing, the prospect of flying home for the holidays, and the simplicity of working effectively in my home office exactly fifteen feet away from my bed and thirty feet away from my coffee brewer. 

What makes you what you are? What sits under the surface that defines the person you are and the profession you’ve chosen? Come on. Share. Otherwise I’ll feel like a goof for writing this blog.


Promotion, Publicity & Procrastination

Pee-ew! It sure stinks when you’ve worked so hard to write the absolute best book you can and it fails. You’ve sought mentors in your genre. You’ve created a team of trusted readers (beyond your friends and family) to help tweak plot and character development to make it perfect. You’ve found the right agent or publisher. You’ve chosen the route to your readers. You’re committed to your publishing vehicle of choice and have researched it well. Whether traditional publishing, vanity press, indie press, small press, self-publication, joint-publication, POD or e-publication; you’ve done all the homework and it’s perfect for your book. After all, we writers are in a blessed time and there are so many wonderful options these days.   

But … oh-oh … nothing or very few books sell. So, what happened? 

The three ‘P’s, that’s where something went wrong.  Promotion, Publicity and Procrastination. 

We writers are basically solitary creatures living inside our imaginations and moving with the impetus to tell our stories. Some, like me, hate to even leave the house. Out there is the black hole. Out there are distractions and time sucking activities that steal away our precious writing time. But our prospective readers are out there, so what’s a writer to do? 

Let’s take these ‘P’s one at a time and explore them. 

Promotion. Trust me, I’ve been in PR, marketing and promotions most of my professional life and this is a ‘P’ you simply can’t ignore. I’ve seen it happen in every industry, not just the business of being a writer. It goes back to the basics of being a professional. 

The basics are the basics and these principals have been vital since the cavemen convinced each other to trade shells and feathers for goods and services. If you don’t tell someone you’re an expert at something, how will they know? If you don’t show them your skill, how can they decide they want it? If you don’t promote … you basically don’t exist. 

Promotion is vital and it’s vital early. As writers, we’re all told to have a web presence. I have heard several people tell me that yes, they have a website for their book but it’s basically static. Not good. You MUST update your site often, just like your blog. Granted, a blog may receive far more self gratification through responses and viewer numbers, but don’t confuse numbers with creating awareness. Your site is where your creative juices get to really shine. 

Update it at least once a month, more if possible with anything that works. If you write literary novels, add a page that can feature your research techniques. Fantasy? Explore fantasy through the ages. Update information as to where you are on your next book, or how to buy your current book. List where you will be showing or signing your book and what events you’ll be attending. Do small pieces on your characters. Be sure to put sample chapters up; more than a small excerpt. Some publicists recommend as many as five chapters to hook your visitors. Make sure you have a ‘contact the author’ button so visitors can communicate with you. 

Your website should NEVER be stagnant. It needs to be a living, breathing sales entity AND you need to tell as many people as possible that there’s something new to see there. 

Another promotional tool is social networking to shout out your accomplishments, but always remember that social networking loses its power when all the viewers see is you trying to sell your book. Be a person, make some friends, have some fun and your new found circle will be interested in knowing more. 

Find other venues to promote yourself and your work. Step outside the box. Find other websites to become visible on. Share excerpts with other authors. Look for other authors to promote when you tweet or blog or update your own site. Friends help friends. It’s a basic key to good promotion. 

When do you start all this? Here’s the kicker, you should have started when you got the idea to write a book. Honest. When an agent or publisher is interested in you, the first thing he or she does is goggle your name. When was the last time you googled yourself? It might be a good time to check your online presence by taking a look. If you have little or no presence, no matter how great your book is, you may discover that not only is an agent or publisher less willing to look at you seriously … but so are prospective buyers for your book. They just don’t know you exist and it’s your job to tell them. 

Publicity. Again, let’s talk about basics. You have a product. It’s not performing well. What do you do? It’s like a failing baseball team who finds themselves in last place far into the season. The only thing that could be causing this is a failure to perform the basics well. A smart manager knows it’s in the fielding, team dynamics, ball handling or attitude. He shifts the line-up and schedules more practice. He has his coaches work with the pitchers and he takes a look at the farm team for possible replacement options. He eliminates what doesn’t work for techniques and players that do work. 

Hope is never a good strategy. Just because your book is published and available does not … ever (unless you’re Dan Brown or Charlaine Harris) … mean it will simply sell. Promotion and Publicity are hand in hand tools and must be used in tandem. Needless to say, if you haven’t promoted the fact that you are a writer with a book for sale … publicity will not work as well. 

Publicity requires a ground floor on which to build. If you’ve adequately promoted yourself, you can get those platform slats and two by fours and start building. Publicity is the cannon explosion in Beethoven’s fifth. It’s the panicle of the build-up. 

And like promotion, it has to start early. Like promotion it has to be creative and be targeted, well thought out and rooted in the basics to help you succeed. Publicity isn’t just a press release; it’s a well crafted, exciting and interesting press release. Publicity isn’t one press release; it’s a well planned series of press releases that feed the media excitement a bite at a time. Publicity is creating the thrill for your upcoming book. It’s laying the groundwork for speaking or book signing events. It’s telling the world what you have and making them salivate to read it. 

A press release is designed to inform the media, but it works for so much more. Make sure you send your press release to every friend, relative and business associate you know. They need to be aware of your upcoming launch too. Sending them a press release makes them feel important and, you’ll be surprised how many friends will take that release to the nearest book store and ask the manager to carry the book. 

Publicity is about planning your exposure carefully and building the momentum … and it has to happen BEFORE the book hits the shelves. Done correctly, you may find yourself scheduled for live interviews or written up in magazines and newspapers. If you’re super lucky, these events will be scheduled for immediately after your book is released. Done right, the promotion/publicity double team is unbeatable. 

If you can’t write a press release (and I doubt there’s anything a writer can’t write), find one and figure out the formula the same why you figured out the formula for your genre. If you still don’t feel confident about it, get a book. Guerrilla Publicity by Jay Conrad Levinsen, Rick Frishman, and Jill Lublin, and Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman, and Michael Larsen are spectacular but there are many more to choose from. If you are adamantly against planning, writing and implementing your own publicity campaign, hire a publicist. 

Either way, publicity is vital and can’t be ignored if you want success. Making every venue or bookstore and every reader known or unknown who loves your genre, aware that you have a book coming out is vital. Period. 

Procrastination. Buck it up. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t believe that if the book isn’t in hand yet you have nothing to sell. Always remember, YOU are the product as much as your book. Creatively promote and publicize yourself NOW and your book will be successful. You can put off the laundry only so long before you run out of underwear. Treat your hard writing work better. Procrastination isn’t a bad habit, it is a sin and can leave you with a failure you don’t deserve. 

Whether your book is with a big publishing house or a small e-publishing venue, there’s nothing better for your career as a writer than to take your success in hand and make it sterling. Be successful … and start NOW.


The Point

Anyone remember “The Point”? The 1971 animated TV movie written by Harry Nilsson (who wrote and performed several songs in the film) and voiceovers by Ringo Starr, Bill Martin and Dustin Hoffman? Not exactly a kid’s movie, it hit hard then and still does now. “The Point” is the story of young Oblio, a boy with a rounded head in a land where everyone else’s head has a point. Being banished (and wearing an orange pointed hat to hide his uniqueness) Oblio and his dog, Arrow, search for the Pointless Forest. During their travels they come across Rock Man (who we all really know is actually stoned) and receives some very significant advice. “You don’t have to have a point to have a point.” Profound, huh? 

Pondering the internet and the desperate efforts of writers to create a web presence, I couldn’t help but think of Rock Man and Oblio. We’re all wearing garish pointed orange hats hoping to hide our inadequacies at creating a cyber presence to stand next to other writers’ and authors’ sites … but we honestly don’t know what the hell we’re doing. I mean really, what’s the point of an author’s website? Of course the main goal is to showcase the author; use a nice photo and polished bio. Naturally we want to feature our work, offer a sneak peek and hope for the best. But really … WHAT IS THE POINT? 

The bottom line is we really do have to be there. Without a web presence we’re back in our own stuffy home offices, sitting at the keyboard and clacking away at nobody. Everyone wants a website. It’s like bellbottom jeans and tennis bracelets, trendy but valuable. The important thing is to be unique, something Oblio didn’t discover until the end of the movie. We need to embrace our inner Oblio, but instead what are we all really doing? 

Frantic to have the mother of all sites, we scavenge for ideas. We look at everyone else’s site, from Barbara Kingsolver to Mary Sue Blue, unpublished newbie from Amana, Iowa. We digest what we like and discard what we don’t. Now it gets really hairy. I mean jeeze, we’re writers, not web designers. 

Those of us who know amateur web designers, drive that valued friend nuts with our vision. After that sort of fails, we gather together the savings and decide that a professional is required. Holy moly when I think of the boom in the web designer business I shudder, knowing that they are buying tennis bracelets with money taken from starving writers. After that, guess what? The site still isn’t what we envisioned. If we can afford it, we try again, pay again and the cycle continues. And all for what? WHAT IS THE POINT?  

The point is that we must have a web presence. It’s a vital part of our platform. Luckily there are a ton of wonderful professionals out there to advise and direct. Blessedly there are template programs at reasonable prices that can help a writer created a good website. But in the entire process, we need to pay attention to the reason we’re doing this. 

Think about it. You don’t have to have a point … to have a point. Like Oblio, our uniqueness is our message. One site I really love belongs to author Jeremy Shipp, http://jeremycshipp.com . His bizarre, strangely skewed point of view shines not only in his writing but also in his site. It’s subtle but oh so clearly there. There is no question about his point. 

For me, I am rather eclectic, so my goal was to create a visual universe for each of the novels I’m featuring. That’s my point, versatility and vision. 

Find and define your point and everything will get easier when determining your web presence. Everything will fall into place. You don’t have to have someone else’s point, you only need to have yours and make it. 

So when preparing to plunge into the internet world and build a site of your very own, take a few moments to know where you’re going. Avoid the Pointless Forest … and remember that you do have a point and it’s an important message. It will impress your friends, family, prospective agents or publishers and your readers. 

Embrace your inner Oblio! 

And now, me and my Arrow are heading off for a visit with Rock Man.


Hungry

Today’s entry may turn out to be a rant. Everyone has there limits, even me. Oh, it’s not that I’m angry at anyone or anything … just the world in general. That and the fact that I’m STARVING. 

Writers out there, you know what I’m talking about. It’s not just the poor struggling artist kind of hunger either. With all the changes and mutations within the publication industry, a lot of us can’t help but feel the twinge. It’s all so close, isn’t it? So close we can almost taste it. Gonna make it this time! Gonna reach success! 

And suddenly, as though the magic curtain has been pulled away, everything we can possibly imagine to help meet our goal is on display. Amazing complicated contraptions, expensive gold plated plans and of course, those shiny, sparkly things that are so bright they’re hard to look at – those are usually the scams. Been around that block already but lookie here! There’s more. 

Eyes wide and panting like a cat in labor, I finger all the pretty new publishing business profile ideas on the shelves. It feels like I’m a kid in the candy store and I want everything. But like most, I have my preferences and without warning the flashing, pulsing lights dim and the world comes into focus. 

Writing is a bug that bit a long time ago and no matter that you have enough rejection letters to build a Viking funeral ship and send your manuscripts off to Odin, we both know it ain’t happening. It’s a hunger that spreads and throbs from our brain to our core, trembles in our soul and demands sacrifice. Does that make the fancy new candy store a distraction? 

I’ve been discovering that my starvation to reach my goals as a writer and the shifts in the market are both hard cookies. I know what I ultimately want and so do the plethora of new business ventures out there to help make me a published author. The shelves are loaded with goodies … come on down, pick your pleasure, choose your vice. 

Vanity press; self-publishing; joint publishing; e-publishing; small traditional presses; big publishing houses and traditional publishing kits (those require your own handy dandy literary agent, batteries not included). 

Now let’s explore this aisle. Down here we have all the newly evolved services developed to support the latest version of ‘getting published’. We’ve got intermediary literary agents; aggressive acquisitions agents; creative properties attorneys; author’s liaisons and publicists … since now an author published by a big house or a tiny one must toe the line just like self-pubbed authors to get the word out or fail. 

Around every corner and in my own email inbox are a hundred invitations to classes (free and extraordinarily expensive) covering everything from writer stamina, to plot and style development, to building an author platform, to self-marketing without drawing blood. We can learn how to develop a character and make him America’s next heartthrob in one three-hour seminar! There are people who can show us how to eat without dropping crumbs and cola onto the keyboard; and people who teach yoga for more powerful creativity at the keyboard. 

Everything has come to a head in the publishing world and if we’re not overwhelmed with all the amazing new possibilities open to us as writers … we’re probably ready to take a bridge, eyes glazed over and confusion waving from below. “Come on in! The water’s fine!” Yeah. Trust that. 

A writer is a unique blend of thinking machine and feeling blob. A writer is an entity which constantly struggles to function like normal people while our invented worlds smear with the other one (the one where the IRS and the gas company want their payments). A writer is a miracle among mundane beings. Who else can function with so much creativity buzzing inside our heads, while the requirements for success shout for attention outside our skin? 

There’s a solution. It comes with a great sandwich and a glass of stout. See, there’s a fantastic trick for everyone out there. It’s very important to take a serious look at everything offered, but running willy-nilly to every seminar and class isn’t the way and we all know it. Attending every single conference is as much a question of time as finance. Jumping at everything when it calls just isn’t the thing. Here’s what I suggest. 

Get a big-ass piece of paper, really big, like yards of it from a butcher’s paper roll, enough to cover a whole wall. Plot a line across the top that covers twelve months from that day. At the top of every month choose a category which could help you reach your publications goal. For example: Critique or inspiration or website or mentor seeking or platform development or query scheduling, etc. You get the drift. 

Now this is the genius part of my plan (evil grin). 

Without missing a stroke to your keyboard or a moment of your committed writing time, take the current month’s goal and focus on it. Nothing else, just writing and the month’s info gathering subject. Trust me, I know lots of other elements like to latch on but stand your ground. Just because you read somewhere that you shouldn’t begin to understand the function of a website without understanding your platform (which is scheduled three months later), it’s okay. Stay focused and keep your eye on the prize, one area at a time. 

What I propose is that for twelve months we are writing and information gathering machines. At the end of the year, you will have a completed novel, mentored, critiqued and edited. You’ll have begun an aggressive campaign to find the correct publication for that novel, know how to create your website and clearly know your platform and promotional intentions. 

Just imagine, when a prospective agent or publisher asks anything about your manuscript or marketing plan … YOU WILL ACTUALLY HAVE THE ANSWER! Go figure? 

Not rocket science. Simple focus. There are literally hundreds of wonderful solutions out there for every writer’s needs. Being careful of what we gather and how we digest it will make all the difference in getting our hunger satisfied. 

That and not forgetting to eat. Is it really two o’clock?


A GOOD Critic

I’d like to start this blog with a short, rather funny story. A long time ago I had a friend, Tom. Tom had just purchased a crumbling old Victorian in a not-so-nice part of town; he and his wife were beginning that hard process of returning the lovely old row house to its original glory. It was a time in Pittsburgh where everyone was doing it, young yuppie couples wanted to live closer to the city and turn the North Side into a beautiful community. Eventually, they accomplished just that, some refurbishing house after house, flipping properties and moving from block to block in their determination. It gave them a sense of accomplishment and they became experts in the Victorian era in what was once known as Allegheny City. Tom’s house was in an area called the Mexican War Streets and it was … shall we say … a rather shaky place to live at the time.   

One day Tom was walking home and he noticed a small, elderly man in rags struggling to carry a huge, heavy cardboard box. Being the good guy he is, Tom kindly offered to help and took the box from the man’s hands. As they chatted my friend glanced into the box only to see his own things! An antique dome clock, his wife’s jewelry box, several expensive items he’d planned to decorate his new home with when it was finished. Needless to say, poor Tom was helping that man rob his own house! It all turned out fine. With a few words the dude ran like the thief he was and Tom managed to keep his treasures. It was hysterical, since things like that always seemed to happen to Tom. He was that kind of guy. 

Remembering this story, I suddenly noticed the similarities and contradictions between that situation and the fears a lot of new writers have; that terror that someone, somewhere is planning to steal your ideas, your writing, all your hard work. Unlike Tom who without thinking offered a hand to a struggling old man, many new writers are so busy holding their creative efforts close to the chest, they’re afraid to let anyone look at it. I see this a lot. I belong to several critique groups and have created a few too. The fear of being stolen from is as bad as Tom’s total oblivious nature. 

Yes, your work is your work, it’s your heart and soul and anyone who’s written ten consecutive sentences can understand the blood sweat and tears that goes into doing it. It is a courageous thing to let it out there. But more than that, IT’S A VITAL THING TOO. 

See, we all need critics. We need people to view our writing and tell us if we’ve actually told the story we think we’ve told. We need readers to be swept into the emotions of our work and writers to catch every misspelled word or misplaced comma.  We NEED critics. 

Many writers are afraid of critics. Having been a chef, I can tell you it can be an even worse experience when a critic tosses a plate of food at you then a fifty page excerpt. It’s messier, but hurts all the same. It isn’t so much a fear of having our writing read and hated. I honestly believe that what all writers really fear is facing the wrong critic. 

Here are the facts. 

1)      No one wants to steal your ideas. Everyone thinks their ideas are much better than yours so open your clenched fists and get some good critique.

2)      You need constructive critiques, not cruel criticism; support, not coddling; direction, not roadblocks. You’re an intelligent human being, after all you wrote a book. So, when you feel too abused or too pampered, it’s time to either restructure the relationship with your critic, or find a new one.

3)      Lay the groundrules up front for a good critic/writer experience. Tell them what you’re looking for, what you want them to focus on. Then listen carefully when they point out a different area they may have noticed. It’s like a mini marriage, you gotta have trust. They want to be listened to and you want to have a say.

4)      Try several critics. Join several critique groups. Play the field. After all, it may take a while to find the right match. Once you find it, whether it’s one or two critics, stick with them.

5)      Finally, it’s your book, not anyone else’s. Pay attention to the critiques and take them to heart but always … ALWAYS … remember it’s your decision to use the suggestions or not. 

My friend Tom was a good, kind and trusting man and karma stepped in to protect him that day. As writers we too must trust karma. There’s a yin for every yang, a bun for ever burger, and a critic for every writer. Open and trust and see how lucky you can get. 

In the meantime, remember to copyright your work and lock your doors.


PROMOTE THYSELF!

And the gods of publishing spoke. 

The earth rumbled and the lightening struck. All the peoples of the writing land quivered with fear and aw. And the gods said … 

“Stand all ye writers and be counted! I say unto thee one and all, those of the laptop and those of the desktop, those sparrows of the tiny Twitter and lurkers of the massive writers conferences, teachers and students of the word and mid-list authors everywhere I say unto you all … PROMOTE THYSELF!” 

And when the word comes down what do we all do? We panic, we pull out our hair and tear our clothes and we whine. There’s nothing like a good whine, I always say. But soon enough, we’ve all had enough whine. 

Like a garden of beautiful blossoms, fantastic advice has popped up everywhere to guide us. Magnificent, excellent advice. It abounds and the sea is swollen with suggestions for website designs, blogging opportunities, platform planks (and the nails to hold it all together). What non-fiction writers and self-published authors have known all along is suddenly the law of reality for all. 

PROMOTE THYSELF! 

But, try real hard not to get lost in the raging pulse of great advice. Don’t drown. Take it little bits at a time; there are a million ways to cook a chicken. The key to a perfectly roasted bird is the same as the path to a perfectly executed promotional plan … patience, clarity, understanding the tools and using them well. Winging it just won’t work. 

Don’t go off half-cocked (oh, another poultry pun) and blanket the world with unfocused press releases or emails to spam your (soon to be no longer) friends to death. Don’t sweat over seeking ill-defined speaking engagements or stapling posters on every telephone phone pole in sight. Your face with the scrawled words, “Have you seen this writer? He/She is starving! Please buy his/her book!” won’t actually do it. 

PROMOTE THYSELF! 

Do it carefully and unfortunately, in order to do it at all, you must first (yes, here it comes) … KNOW THYSELF … and (uh-huh) TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE. 

Know yourself, know your skills, know your abilities and know your limitations. If you don’t have the time or energy to run all over asking if you can sign books at all the tri-state B&N locations, think about hiring an assistant to help make all the arrangements. If you can’t figure out how to reach every newspaper in the northeast, hire a company that does the press release flight for you. If you can’t figure out where to start, hire a publicist. If you can’t afford a publicist, there are a hundred books, classes, clubs and organizations to show you how to proceed. Being a writer is a business, and few businesses are successful just because they opened their doors. 

PROMOTE THYSELF. 

If you’re not published yet, make your presence known. Who knows, the gods of publishing may reach down and touch you. Then where will you be? Unprepared, that’s where. Put together your business plan right now. Outline what makes you … the author … as valuable a product as the wonderful book you’ve written. 

PROMOTE THYSELF

KNOW THYSELF

TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE 

Now, I need to go baste the chicken.