Tag Archives: writer

Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 6

PART SIX: Planning an Effective Pre-launch

I once met an author whose book was coming onto the market in three short weeks, and she’d been incorrectly told not to promote it until it was out and available.

Don’t mean to sound brazen or mean but … SHHIZBUTT*HOG*WASH*ARE*YOU*CRAZY*YOU*CAN*NOT*BE*FREAKING* SERIOUS!

Okay, now I feel better and so should you. You see, there’s a certain madness that overcomes authors when they get close to seeing their book in the flesh. It makes them forget all the good sense that got them to that point in the first place. I call it The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome. It causes all kinds of crazy things to mix and mash in your head until it’s a pulverized tomato soup, you know the kind I mean, right out of the can and tasting like nothing … not even tomatoes.

But never fear, there is a cure for The Dreaded Almost Famous Syndrome and it’s far simpler than you think.

Ready?

Here goes.

COMMON SENSE

Told ya it was simple. Common sense. See, as the circus rings tighten around you and everything in the big top is bright and shiny and distracting, there’s a very simple way to extract yourself from those terrible “squirrel” moments and stay on track. Just use your head. All the experts in the world and all your friends and all those strangers who come out of the woodwork to give you advice (some out of caring, most for money) are going to start sounding like an off-key brass band tuning up. If you use your head and categorize all the ideas that are being lobbed your way, you will see things clearly. You are smart. And you are definitely smart enough to instinctively know when a piece of advice seems wrong.

That author I mentioned in the beginning? Well after we chatted a bit, she said the words I knew were coming. “Oh my God, I thought that might be wrong! It didn’t seem to make sense, I just didn’t know what else to do but follow the plan and wait until after the book came out. Now what do I do?”

I told her not to panic, and I suggested that from that day forward to always remember: No matter the advice, if it doesn’t smell like apple pie and it doesn’t look like apple pie … it probably isn’t apple pie. In other words, she needed to trust her instincts and promote her book.

A successful pre-launch campaign for any book hinges tightly to your platform. Who are you talking to and where are you visible? How many audiences have you created? If it’s your mom and that nice kid at the Home Depot, you don’t have a platform. If you’ve built your platform carefully and developed a visibility, your audience – all those followers who never miss your blog, chime in on twitter, support you at the critique groups and asked to be on your mailing list – has been there through it all. They’ve watched your initial struggles with writing or rewriting or editing your book. They’ve stood and cheered when you got an agent or found a publisher perfect for your book. They’ve listened to you talk about the book cover and shouted rousing congratulations when you finally showed them how it looks. They pop in at your book website often to see what’s new and get the skinny on your progress. And if you’ve done this well, that group of followers has grown and grown.

T MINUS 90 DAYS

Now, time for the countdown. Three months before your book comes out (two weeks before if e-published) you begin your hype. Using every venue you’ve cultivated with your social and professional networking, you announce when the book will be available. You begin promoting pre-sales of the book. You send out your first of six well crafted press releases, making sure to target local papers and publications, radio and television stations. Go the distance by sending that same press release to your friends, family and associates. Arrange a book Launch Party with a local independent bookstore or library and begin compiling an invitation list. Be sure to include other authors, friends, family members, business associates and local media (newspaper, television and radio) on that list.

T MINUS 60 DAYS

Two months before the launch, you strike again, but make sure your message is bigger, denser and more powerful. Now you take any early copies of the book and seek reviews. You begin booking yourself to speak and have events at libraries, coffee shops, bookstores and book clubs. Another press release, this time attaching your photo, the book cover and announcing the venues where the book will be available and where it is already available for preorder.

T MINUS 30 DAYS

Books in hands from the publisher? Get them out and visible. Carry them to the local independent bookstores and libraries and show them off. Arrange for book events. Keep your ears perked for major book events you may want to participate in.

T MINUS 20 DAYS

Get your Launch Part invitations out. Send out another press release about the Launch Party. Respond immediately to RSVPs. Hopefully you’ve already begun speaking at groups and libraries and by this point, have most likely been interviewed for a few radio shows or online shows. You’ve been invited to guest blog and have hyped the coming launch on your book website, your own blog, twitter, facebook and every email groups you belong too.

T MINUS 10 DAYS

Now you can hear harmonizing circus music, but don’t let it distract you. You’re very close, be sure to keep the momentum up. Continue to contact and schedule speaking engagements, even if it’s at a local high school writing class. You need to be as visible as your book. Continue to let everyone know where they can preorder a “signed” copy of your book, and keep telling everyone the launch date.

D-DAY

Send a press release announcing everything important, that the book launches that day, where it can be purchased, where you have been interviewed and the great reviews you’ve gotten. Get over to your blog (there’s time before the party, honest) and give your followers your heartfelt thanks for taking the journey with you. Get to your book website and splash that banner that the book is now available! Keep your site media room up to date and loaded with activity so everyone knows where they can see you or hear you speak.

Now, go to your party, have a glass or three of champagne, enjoy the crowd and pat yourself on the back for making the day what it should be. Doing an effective pre-launch you’ve accomplished several things.

  • You’ve pre-sold books
  • You’ve become visible and created a demand for your book
  • You’ve made yourself media available and created a buyer following
  • You’ve eliminated the stress of worrying about failure because you’ve done your part to assure success.

Now, of course, every book and every pre-launch will be different. Some topics may easily lend themselves to exciting, highly visible exposure. Others may take a bit more push. The level of push is all on your shoulders though. It’s you’re choice. You’re the author and it’s your baby. Up to you.

(Want to know more about press campaigns? I’m considering a series on it, so let me know)

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks

Lesson four, Getting Attention

Lesson five, Knowing Your Market


Author Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 5

PART FIVE: Knowing Your Market

Who are you writing for? What do they look like? Where do they live? Where do they buy the books they read? In an independent book store? At the big chains? Wal-Mart? Amazon? How do they like to get their stories? Hard backs? Paperbacks? E-books? Audio books?

Let’s go further. Where do they learn about the books they like to read? Is your prospective reader viewing book videos? Does s/he read the New York Times Best Sellers list to find what they want? Do they frequent the library? Belong to reading groups? Only purchase books recommended by friends?

What genres do they prefer and are you writing for them … or for you?

Big, confusing questions, but all important and serious as a heart attack. If you don’t know your reader as intimately as you know yourself, you just may be talking to yourself and no one else.

Yes, a literary agent may sign you because they adore your style or idea and feel strongly that they can sell it, but never forget who they’re selling your manuscript to … publishers who follow the proven formulas for sales. Yes, you may have friends and fans who love your online work and follow your platform to the ends of the earth, but are they really the ones who will cough up the cash and buy your book? Say you’ve chosen the self-publishing route and bypassed a lot of the traditional publisher choices regarding your book’s printing or distribution … you still MUST KNOW YOUR MARKET.

Let’s simplify this a little. Say you are a chocolate lover. Where do you go for your chocolate? As a chocolate lover myself, I’ll happily explore this sweet path right along with you. I might start at the local convenience store where they display the popular candy bars. I’m a real fan of Snickers. For something a little different, I’ll go to the grocery store and check out the boxes of chocolate chip cookies, or the package brownie mix. Okay, maybe I’m not in the do-it-yourself or prepackaged mood and I want something a little higher quality. Look for me at the local bakery where they’ve got chocolate slathered éclairs and freshly made moon pies. All right, maybe I’m looking for something more classy and ready to step it up even higher. Godiva Chocolates. YESSSS.

Now, what I’ve just demonstrated for you is that a prospective buyer can be reached at a number of different places, wanting a number of different qualities but still desiring the same satisfaction for their sweet tooth. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the person loves chocolate.

Translated, chocolate represents your genre. The various venues represent your prospective buyer’s reading requirements, and the quality levels represent the buyer’s moods and level of loyalty to you as the author. This is called market branding and only you can control, expand, or define it for your specific product.

If you write romance you can write several specific subgenres of romance from historic romance to paranormal romance to chicklit romance and still … marketed correctly, you can span a wide range of readership and create loyalty. You can carefully direct your target markets the way the big houses do, starting with hardback to reach those who keep books on their shelves to re-read – then to paperback or soft backs for those who prefer to spend less, read on the plane, train or during vacations – schedule an e-publishing exposure to reach a whole new audience who prefers to screen read, then generate loyalty through aggressive social media and start all over again with the next book.

It’s all fun and games when you play the format game … but there are no games if you don’t know your reader, because every detail about that reader represents your market and all the colors of it.

Where to start? At the end of course. Take a bottle of water (and a Snickers Bar) and go on a nice full day of exploring in say … Barnes and Noble. Stroll the aisles and take notes. Yes, take notes. How many books of a specific category do they have on the shelves? How many people beeline directly to those particular shelves and how many patrons meander around until something catches their eye? Yes, we all like to think we’re writing something that’s so unique it’s never been done before but if it’s not on those shelves, it’s not going to have a current market. If you spend your research time in small independent bookstores or online, it will tell you the same thing. This is the market that exists … now where does your book fit into it?

Naturally you could research sales numbers for specific genres online, but I highly recommend you do it live and in person. There’s a strong impact gained from watching the prospective buyer in the wild, doing its hunting and gathering thing and making choices based on the touch and feel (and the dust cover blurb) of the chosen book.

Knowing your market is about knowing THE market. Understanding it and facing the fact that changing it may take some doing. To build a new market for something unique and unusual, it takes a whole different strategy. For our purposes, it’s most important to find that very clear vision of exactly who will read your book … and talking right to that reader.

Next week we’ll talk about speaking to that reader. For now, it’s more important to identify and know your market. Have fun defining your audience, and watch out for the sugar high.

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks

Lesson four, Getting Attention


Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 4

PART FOUR: Tricks to Perk the Prospective Buyers … Getting Attention!

Attention! Attention! We just love attention, but only the best kind. It’s a scary proposition, putting a few hundred pages of your soul out there for the world to see. But even more daunting than that, is the prospect that maybe no one will look. Shiver!

Fear not, that’s what we’re here to talk about today. Last lesson, we discussed your unique hooks and what makes you so special. This lesson goes a bit deeper and hopefully seriously gets the point across that without a platform, you will drown.

There are a million tricks out there to perk a prospective buyer. You’ve seen it all, from “wall-to-wall carpeting bait and switch” to “test drive and get tickets to the All-Star Game”. Just like car dealers and carpet companies, you are in business. Your product is your book. There are classic and bizarre ways to attract attention, but whatever you do, it must point favorably to the bottom line … sales.

Getting attention for your book can require nothing more than a kick-ass cover, or it may require something special to tip the scales. Let’s explore deeper.

  • FICTION – Suppose you’ve written a novel about an amnesiac woman whose life is saved by a werewolf on a self destructive mission to end his own life.  You know you’ve got a great twist and wonderful story but you also know that there are hundreds of supernatural romances on the shelves and you must find a way to draw attention to yours. Solutions abound, sublime to absolutely stupid but because you’re aware of the importance of “attention”, you examine them all. For example, your book cover can be fur. You may include a CD collection representing the music your supernatural hero used to help the heroine recover and hold her memory. Their songs. You may even develop a folded map to be inserted in the book that shows the route your main characters trekked during the adventure.
  • NON-FICTION – Now, let’s imagine you’ve written a non-fiction how-to book about the care and maintenance of a person’s social media image. Of course you’ve done all the homework, researched deep and hard and already know that your subject is something people want and need to know. You’ve even presented it in a creative and entertaining way. Now what? To the drawing board. Should there be a downloadable program available to assist with the information? Maybe an attached workbook that helps the reader implement your advice?
  • FICTION & NON-FICTION – Strange solutions after the reality of your book’s availability can get crazy too. Honestly, what book really needs imprinted mugs or tee-shirts to boost visibility? The book is already on the shelves … real or virtual … and frankly ladies and gentlemen, it’s too late.

Enter: The Platform. The reason we build an author’s platform is to give us a solid ground to stand on so we can hold our book(s) high over our heads and listen to the roaring cheers. The best way to fail, is to be down in the crowd shouting about your book while the rest of the world is looking up at another author’s platform! So, building your platform before the book is launched … while the book is being written … and as you conceptualize your success IS VITAL.

Here are a few free or very inexpensive ways to get your platform in line so that you and your book get the attention you need to assure sales.

  1. Be aware of your audience even as you begin imagining your book. Get down and dirty, do the research and clearly understand your prospective reader. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a client with an already published book and yet totally unaware of who her readers are. This is especially prevalent among self-published authors. If you aren’t sure of your reader’s demographic, you’re treading water and may just go down for the count. Know clearly if you’re primary audience is young adult, children or a coming of age piece of adult literature. Urban Fantasy is not Paranormal Romance, and Erotica is not Mainstream Romance. If you don’t know exactly what you’re selling, how can you know who to sell to? Only you can determine this and only you can tweak it to reach the audience you really want.
  2. The computer age is marvelous! USE IT. Just as many authors are queasy about standing in front of people and speaking about their book, some are afraid to have a voice on the internet. Simple advice … get over it. You have tools, free and at your command right in front of your eyes.
  3. First, your website. If you don’t have one, get one. Build it yourself or pay someone to do it but you really should have a website. What’s on your website? Your book, of course. But I’m not talking about simply having a site, I’m talking about having a living, breathing site that attracts attention and is always changing. For example, aside from your main page which shows the cover or your book (or what you’d like to see as the cover of your book), you should also have a page that talks about how you developed the book. A page that explains the reason for your book. If it’s a fiction, you might want to have a page that features your characters, some of their background or even a few words from them. Have fun with this and UPDATE OFTEN. Make sure everyone you know gets an email every time you update. Constantly expand your email list. If you’re writing a non-fiction, join clubs and organizations that focus on your subject. Get people talking about your book and your website and …
  4. Imbed a blog. Yes, a blog. This should be updated at least weekly, preferably more than once a week and your blog should chart your course from concept to finish. Again, make sure everyone you know is informed when there’s an update. Keep your installments interesting and related to the process of writing your book or of being a writer. Make friends and when someone comments … be sure to respond … every time.
  5. Social Media. Don’t be scared. If you’re not already Twittering, FaceBooking, Linkedin or otherwise visible, I strongly suggest you do it. An Author’s Platform is built with followers, not hope (and as we all know, hope is a terrible strategy). The more friends and relationships you create, the stronger your following.
  6. Writing Groups, Reading Groups, Libraries and Organizations, OH MY! Become a joiner. Where ever there are readers and writers there is support, camaraderie and book buyers. Be careful though, don’t become that used-car salesman you hear about all the time. Be subtle, be honest, and above all, be supportive too. Make sure a few of the groups you join are targeted toward your buyer. Sit back and do some serious listening. There could well be a few successful authors in the group, or brought in to speak to the group, who have some great gems of wisdom for you. Let your mind percolate. When people talk of their ideas, imagine them working or failing and then focus on your own. Check out books on creativity. One of my favorites is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. There are a thousand ways to start thinking boldly and way, way outside the box. The Artist’s Way also has facilitators who do live workshops all over the country. Check it out and strap in for the creative ride of your life. Imagine knowing your target and finding the most amazing way to reach them. Sounds like sales to me.

In conclusion, Getting Attention is by far one of the most critical and important planks in your Author’s Platform. It’s a plank you must develop early and well to assure success whether you’re planning on traditional publishing, self-publishing, independent publishing or e-publishing. Whether you’re writing fiction or non fiction.

Stand up and shout NOW and get some well deserved attention!

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time

Lesson one, The Rhyme and Reason

Lesson two, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lesson three, Developing Your Unique Hooks


Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 3

PART THREE: Developing Your Unique Hooks. What Makes You So Special?

We’ve all taken a stroll through Barnes & Noble and gotten that shiver of terror. Even if you’re already published and about to launch your second or tenth book, that fear trickles in and without warning you start to wonder. Who is going to buy my book when they’re bombarded with all these other books? Yes, you’re writing is wonderful and your story kicks butt, but one twirl around and you see thousands of other author’s offerings and can’t help but feel the pressure.

An already published author, no matter the publishing arena, has fans and that helps, but what can be done to keep those readers waiting with bated breath for your next book? A first time author can easily become paralyzed with the prospect of sitting along side best selling authors and hoping for a good showing.

Nope. Not if you’ve done your job right. Seriously. Building your Author’s Platform correctly is about not only knowing your prospective readers, but knowing where, how and when to reach them. AND … it’s all about doing it very early in the process. VERY EARLY. Like, yesterday.

But where ever you are in your platform building process, it’s never too late to sit still, develop your unique hooks and polish everything that makes you special.

For this exercise, I’m going to choose three different kinds of authors and genres and simply push the envelopes a little. You are the writer, you know your project and yourself better than anyone, but hopefully this will help break down a few walls and help you imagine a bigger, wider landscape for hooking your prospective readers better.

Who knows about The Six Thinking Hats? This is a management solutions process developed in Japan to help determine the practicality of a suggested business solution. Since being and author is a business, I always like to refer to this process. It’s simple and very productive. Get a piece of paper and get ready. Sometimes this process works well alone, sometimes it’s especially effective when you pull together a few more minds. Either way, you want to follow this procedure.

  • Hat number 1, White Hat. Choose an issue you wish to explore. For example, whether it might be wise to pitch your soon to be published book, Tropical Murder, to pet stores that sell tropical fish.
  • Hat number 2, Yellow Hat. This is the sunny outlook. Imagine putting a bright yellow hat on your head and only seeing the brilliance of the idea. For example, there are tropical fish in your book; you have seen books sold in the pet store; people who love fish will love your book.
  • Hat number 3, Black Hat. Now change hats. Put on the black one. This hat represents everything negative about the idea. Go on, get brutal. For example, you’ve never seen anyone buy a book at the pet store; there are no fiction books at the pet store; when someone is buying a fish, they’re not thinking about reading a book; fish people like to look at their fish, not read.
  • Hat number 4, Red Hat. Now it’s time to tap into your emotions. Thoughts may surface that say how much you love fish and how everyone should love fish. Or maybe, your emotions go the other direction and you decide that most fish lovers are boring and probably wouldn’t understand the nuance of your murder mystery. You may really like the guy who owns the pet store and want your book there, or you may have some negative emotions about the man who works the counter and never smiles.
  • Hat number 5, Green Hat. Okay, now your Thinking Hats are going to really begin working for you. You’ve explored the stupid and the sublime and now you can examine the real possibilities. The green hat is the super creative hat. All the yellow, red and black ideas have been written down and now you can turn it all into gold. For example, now you’ll recognize that just because the pet stores don’t carry or feature novels, doesn’t mean that they won’t. You may begin to develop a few fun and creative ways to present the book to the pet store owner. You can explore his possible objections and develop ways to counter that negativity. If he says he never carried fiction before, you must be armed with statistics about the number of books sold every year. Take it further, tell him how many tropical fish lovers are also avarice readers. Tell him about the common psychology between reading and watching tropical fish.
  • Hat number 6, Blue Hat. All right, now that you’ve taken creative steps to think the problem into submission, now you need to get down and dirty practical. The blue hat is a lovely blue sky that says it’s going to be a great day. You can make it possible but you can only do it with reason and logic. This is where your idea becomes something extremely possible and prospectively profitable. So, you’ve convinced a pet store to carry your novel on his shelves. Now what? Take it to the moon! Now make your proposal and plan for pet store chains. What about aquariums? They sell books there too. How about the pet stores that don’t sell fish, but they do sell fish food. And … what if your idea slides further. How about travel agents who book trips to tropical places. What a shoe-in! Travel and reading! Let this go, let the practical ideas grow and let them filter into possibilities. And remember, you also have some leverage here. Your publisher will be helping you get exposure, so perhaps you can give a little nod to the pet stores carrying your book. Maybe you can blog about each store or chain, giving a nod to not only the fish but the store owners. Everyone likes a little tit for tat. Remember your bargaining tools.

And all this came about because the main character in your mystery novel happens to love tropical fish. The story doesn’t have to be about tropical fish. The Six Hats Process is about taking standard business and pushing it further. Now you have an entire new avenue for book sales you simply didn’t have before.

THAT’S building a strong platform.

Your unique hooks can be about anything in your fiction or non-fiction book. They must relate to some passion within you. The hooks are what make you special. Let’s explore another genre.

Non fiction books are easy, or are they? Suppose you’ve written a non-fiction about the startling high growth of rat population in the inner city. Ugh, right? But, what can make people want to buy a book about rats?

  • White Hat – (fact) Author requires positive exposure for The Rat Book.
  • Yellow Hat – (sunny outlook) There’s a fear factor about rats, so there is an audience in need of this knowledge. Also, there are several historical and creative, informative segments featured in the book that make it somewhat entertaining.
  • Red Hat – (emotion) Rats are not loveable creatures, they carry disease and can be dangerous. They’re creepy and ugly.
  • Black Hat – (negative) No one but the scientific or educational community will be interested in The Rat Book. What’s the point in trying to promote it further?
  • Green Hat – (creative) If the creative elements of the book are entertaining enough, using an entertaining speaking platform could garner readers. Libraries might love to hear the author speak, as well as inner city radio or television shows. Perhaps the book can hook in with humane groups trying to evacuate rats from the inner city and they could co-promote. Maybe a few promotional items like a poster showing the noble rat in his habitat or tee shirts stating “Rat Book Rules” are a possibility.
  • Blue Hat – (practical) Begin a press campaign for effective exposure of the author as a speaker/expert on the subject. Book events at book stores, libraries, radio and television shows. See The Rat Book become a subject talked about on the daily train commute.

One more? Okay, How about the big mamajama right now – Paranormal Romance. How do you find your unique hook? A vampire? A werewolf? You have to go further than that, much further. This is where building your platform and creating your unique hooks are developed right along with the plot. Exactly what makes your supernatural (or human) character different than every other character in a paranormal romance?  Get out your hats and let’s explore.

  • White Hat – (fact) Author requires a unique hook in the paranormal romance genre.
  • Yellow Hat – (sunny outlook) Well, everyone’s reading paranormal romance right now so maybe no unique hook is required? Everyone loves vampires, the fae and shape-shifters, so you’re cool. Right? Right?
  • Red Hat – (emotion) Paranoia sets in. You love your book, really love your book and your characters but … what if your supernatural creatures aren’t as interesting as Charlaine Harris’ or Yasmine Galenorn’s? What if the readers just don’t get you? Of course, they’re all crazy if they don’t, right? Right? You love this book and so will everyone else. Who doesn’t love supernaturals?
  • Black Hat – (negative) There are a thousand paranormal romances on the shelves. What’s the point in trying?
  • Green Hat – (creative) Is there something unique about your paranormal character? Something that makes him stand out? Does your vampire love to sing opera arias or maybe your werewolf has a penchant for pasta? Is your story set in a unique town or does your protagonist love old black and white movies? Find the hook. If protagonist and werewolf, Ben Woofer, loves linguini with marinara sauce you just may have located a twist to your hook that can find you a broader readership. Ben Woofer might have a few recipes to share, he may even have a cookbook in mind. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to connect your paranormal romance with an Italian restaurant chain or play Italian folk music behind your book events? Find the hook. If pasta is the hook, make it stick and use it to the hilt.
  • Blue Hat – (practical) Take this from idea to practicality, from doing signings and speaking engagements at The Olive Garden restaurants, to chef’s hats with your book title on them. Build an entire culture around your werewolf with a pasta love to match his romance with your human character. These are the kinds of things that make your hook as strong as your competitor’s.

Okay, I’ve given you the tools, The Six Thinking Hats. You’ve written or are writing the book. NOW is the time to find and develop your unique hooks. It’s the third step in creating a great Author’s Platform!

Oh, and we can’t forget to add a little inspiration to keep you going with this construction process, right? Okay gals, is he a werewolf or isn’t he?

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 1, The Rhyme and Reason

Platform Building, One Plank at a Time, part 2, Creating Your Book Business Plan

Lessons to come:

  • Tricks to Perk the Prospective Buyers
  • Knowing Your Market
  • Planning Effective Pre-launch Exposure
  • Understanding and Using Professionals to Help Build Your Career
  • Estimating and Limiting Expenses
  • Time is on Your Side!


Found the Perfect Giveaway!

‘Tis the gift giving season and it’s sometimes harder to think our way through a shopping list than it is to plot a 120,000 word novel. It’s tough! We all forget people we shouldn’t forget (that’s what that stash of scratch-off lottery tickets is for), and we realize that the people we didn’t forget, simply have everything. It’s a dilemma. What to buy, what to buy?

Okay, admit it, we all re-gift and we all do it for various reasons. Sometimes I get a gift that simply doesn’t fit. But hey, my work friend is three sizes smaller and she’ll love it so ….  Sometimes the gift is not my taste, but my son loves alternative rock ‘n roll so he gets the disc. Sometimes I already have one of those and don’t feel like doing the whole exchange thing, but oh yes, my neighbor would love a Tupperware salad crisper. Re-gifting just happens.

I take re-gifting a little further. For years I was involved with Native American studies and one of the most special parts of a ceremony is the “giveaway”. The original concept of the giveaway was designed to move the wealth around the community. To offer what you have and receive something in return. It also held a lot of spiritual importance, as it passed along the energy of the original owner to the new owner. For example, in today’s giveaways, many women pass on pieces of jewelry or a favorite shawl. Men will giveaway good serviceable tools or leather coats. The heart of this practice is beautiful and more giving than when a person simply popped in at J.C. Penny’s and picked up a sweater or wallet for you.

The giveaway touches on the spirit of the giving person it came from. It’s hard to part with things sometime, but I believe that if you listen hard enough, that item will tell you when it’s time to move on. I’ve tried to institute the practice often, especially when I have to give a gift to someone I don’t know very well. It’s an opportunity to explain the lovely meaning of the giveaway, what they’re getting, why I felt the need to give it to them, and what the item had meant to me.

I wish the Holidays would be more like Giveaways.

But, among my closest friends they all know they’ll get something odd, strange and interesting from me. I may spice the item with something small from the store, but the guts of it is always deeply personal from me to them. Today as I did my annual search, I found something entertaining and fun to share with you, my fellow writers. I only wish I had a million of these to pass around, but instead, I’ll just give you bits and pieces right here in the blog.

In the many still sealed boxes I never got to after moving 3,000 miles to Los Angeles a few years ago, I found a little treasure that made me laugh. The book is entitled “Words that Sell”. It was published in 1984 by Asher-Gallant Press and written by Richard Bayan. It’s a cool little book that boasts being “A Ultimate Thesaurus to Help Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas”  I can’t recall if I ever used the book but exploring through it made me laugh and made me think. It also surprised me that there really are a few things in here that can be super helpful for writers. For example: the “Puffspeak – And Its Alternative” chapter. Check this out.

PUFFSPEAK  –  TRANSLATION

access (used as verb)  –   obtain

at this point in time  –  now

continuum  –  link

counterproductive  –  futile

finalize  –  finish

impact (used as a verb)  –  affect

inoperative  –  doesn’t work

interface  –  meet, work with

macro-anything –  big

mainstreaming  –  rejoining

mega-anything  –  big

optimize  –  improve

parameters  –  limits

parenting  –  raising kids

pursuant to  –  according to

ramifications  –  consequences

stonewalling  – lying

viable  –  workable

Now this wasn’t all of them listed but reading through the list, I realized that not only do writers use a lot of Puffspeak where they shouldn’t, but they probably forget to use it where they should. Cool, huh?

Anther section in that chapter has the header of “Wordy Expressions”. Now here’s a good way to pare down those manuscripts!

AVOID   –  REPLACE WITH

at the present time  –  now

at this point in time  –  now

as of this date  –  now

during that time  –  when

at which time  –  when

on the occasion of  –  when

on the grounds that  –  because

as a result of  –  because

owing to the fact that  –  because

by virtue of the fact that  –  because

with reference to  –  about

pertaining to  –  about

in the event that  –  if

came to a decision as to  –  decide

reached a conclusion as to  –  decide

make use of  –  use

in close proximity of  –  near

as it is often the case  –  often

he is a man who  –  he

Hahaha, I love those! Why do we all get so damn wordy? This book also includes lists on commonly confused words like accede and exceed, on commonly misspelled words, and a cool chapter on “Grabbers”. Under descriptions there’s a category of “Romantic”. Check this out. This was the ultimate in word collections and quick reference when computers were just a new nuisance we knew we’d eventually have to figure out. Please tell me that these days we do better than this under the “romantic” category, LOL.

ROMANTIC WORDS AND TERMS

enchanting

haunting

enthralling

captivating

a storybook world

surrender to the spell of

passionate

breathless

burning

torrid

rapturous

So funny! I think we’ve come a long way since 1984 but of course, there’s always something to learn from the past and from other parts of the communication world. I always listen to complex symphony when I’m preparing to plot a novel. I always look at old magazines and movies when developing character. I always check out the way I used to think to develop a new way of thinking.

“Words That Sell” was my giveaway little Holiday gift to you!


Do Something!

Note from Deborah Riley-Magnus – I LOVE inspirational people – those writers and creative thinkers that set a real fire under our butts. Dan Holloway is just that kind of inspiring. He and Year Zero Writers have set the groundwork for some groundbreaking advances in how creative people see the publishing world!

Writers love to moan. We love to say the system’s unfair. We love to say the public has no taste; the publishers don’t understand the public (sliding our argument to suit our end, of course); agents are slowpaced and biased. We love to complain. As though a Monty-Pythonesque character will boom down from the sky “I hear your complaint and I shall make it well” and a contract with six-figure advance will miraculously appear in our hands.

As I trawl through a number of writers’ forums, the sheer energy we expend complaining makes me wonder – why are we really moaning (especially when I hear people berate the industry for expecting time-pressed writers to market their own books!)? Isn’t that energy better spent actually doing something?

I’ve always joked that my motto is “it’s better to fail gloriously than never to have tried”, but it’s not really that much of a joke. What frustrates me most is seeing great writers waiting for something to happen, or frustrated that nothing does. I certainly DON’T believe that hard work creates success. I do believe that those who succeed have worked hard for it, though. I also would like to believe that as writers we’re a fairly creative bunch. It’s what we do, right? So why is it we’re so bad at thinking up ways to make our mark? Why are so many of us slaves to the agent-publisher route? Why do people still insist that getting lost amidst the crowds of Lulu or floundering on blogger and smashwords are the only alternatives?

Why don’t people get out there and DO something, and not give a fig whether they fail? I’m going to start with an answer. I think most people don’t because they’re the people about whom the adage that “everyone has a book in them” was written. There are lots and lots of people who’ve written a book. Maybe even a very good book. And they want to spend the rest of their lives selling it and living off the proceeds. Well, I’m not talking to them. Frankly, whether they look to the mainstream or beyond, they’re never going to make a career as writers. It’s all very well worrying that you’ll throw away your book’s big chance if your experiment goes wrong. But that’s only an argument if you’ve only got one book in you. And if you have, you’re never going to be a career writer.

This is aimed at the rest of you, those who know you’ll have to produce a book a year for the rest of your working lives if you’re going to stand a chance – and back that up with at least ten to a hundred times that number of articles. It’s to those of you for whom a failure with one book isn’t a “waste” but an experience. It’s for those of you who like the sound of my other hackneyed adage: “How do you know if you haven’t tried?”

This year I’ve tried three big things. One of them fell flat on its face and two of them have been the most amazing experiences. This is what I’ve learned.

1. The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes. This is a novel I wrote interactively on Facebook, in a group of the same name. The idea was to get readers involved in the story, to draw them in and get them deciding which characters they wanted more of, which they wanted killed off, which story angles they wanted to pursue and so on. I wrote al kinds of background material, promoted it online and in the local press, got a reasonable number (218 at latest) of people in the group, but it never really caught on. I had some lovely comments from my fellow writers, but readers never really caught the interactive bug.

Why? I think there are several reasons. But most of all, I think what I learned, and it’s been borne out elsewhere on the web, is that for all we talk about interweb this and 2.0 that, people behave on the net much as they behave off it – and most people want to be told a story, and not to have to get involved in it. Maybe it would work better in a book that overlapped more with traditional gaming scenarios – certainly MCM had some success with 3D1D. But it doesn’t work for how I write.

Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the craft of writing (serials are great for pacing), and I met some great people. And at least I know it doesn’t work for me.

2. I got the Year Zero Writers (http://yearzerowriters.wordpress.com/) collective together originally as a marketing group. I thought we could use the economy of scale of numbers as a way of cracking the hardest self-publisher’s nut of all – getting word out. It hasn’t quite worked like that, although the word IS getting out. What’s happened is that around 20 of us have formed less of a marketing collective and more of a mini literary movement, each writing fiction that’s unapologetically literary, and delivering it straight to readers both through books, which are available on the freemium model – with ebooks free and paperbacks for sale, and through daily original fiction on our blog.

I’ve learned some amazing things through Year Zero: first, working in a group of people with similar concerns is great for pushing your writing to the next level. Second, marketing is key, but when you’re indie, it often works best when you’re not trying to market but just doing what you love doing. People get the authenticity. Whilst we just had our books, we went largely unnoticed, even though we were “marketing” a lot. Then we got the blog going, and within a few weeks we were Nylon Mag’s site of the day, labeled “cool”. And people were inviting us to guest blog, strangers were e-mailing saying they loved what we were up to. Authenticity and integrity are absolutely essential. Third, I’ve learned a whole load of things about going the indie way. The freedom you get – editorially, over cover art, over marketing, and over what you write next, is exhilarating. It’s something I can’t imagine swapping for a publishing contract. Fourth, I learned persistence. So many self-publishers give up when they’re not an overnight success, but there are no overnight successes – not really. What matters isn’t how you’re doing on day two of your project – it’s how you’re doing on book five.

3. Free-e-day (http://freeeday.wordpress.com/) is something I literally thought up on the bus. A single day on which every independent creative person gives something away for free to form one big celebration, and show the world what indies can do. It seemed utterly overambitious but I dutifully started a Facebook group and told a few people and, today (literally today, December 1st), we have a full-colour free e-programme with 100 contributors, 5 fantastic web workshops, and a live concert with music, reading, art, and dance, and most of all, we have built an actual indie community around what we’re doing. It’s a festival that will grow and communities and collectives and friendships with it.

So here’s the message. I’m an amateur. I knew nothing about social media theory or marketing before this year other than some experience running a flooring showroom. But I thought 2009 seemed like a perfect time for trying things and seeing what happened. So I did. Everything I tried I tried from scratch. There will be lots of people who disagree very strongly with what I’ve done. I’d respectfully suggest that rather than vent their spleen my way, they put that fantastic energy into seeing what they can do. Go on, everyone. In 2010 DO something. Anything. Just get on with it and don’t let anyone tell you no.

 


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!