Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

May all my friends and followers have a pleasant and relaxing Thanksgiving. And remember, eat those leftovers before they rise from the dead and eat you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Writing: Marketing Your Book and Yourself

"What? You mean I spent a year writing my book, six months revising it, and three years getting it published, and you tell me that was the easy part?”


It’s time for the harsh reality. Your novel is a product. In publishing, it’s competing with a million other titles. If you’re lucky beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll hit a homerun your first time at bat like J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, or achieve the success Brian Keene did with The Rising and establish a wide following with your first novel. More than likely, as with the vast majority of authors, you will have to struggle to build your reputation. You will have to make the readers aware that your book is out on the market, convince them to purchase a copy, and hope that they like it enough to come back for more and/or talk about you on their blog or Facebook/Twitter. Up until now you’ve spent all your time writing that first book. Now you have to spend just as much time marketing it if you ever hope to see your second book published. Trust me on this one – I’m speaking from experience. 

Publishing is an industry that has undergone radical changes in the past decade. Gone are the days when a publishing house had a small but reliable cache of authors and would devote its time and resources to making them successful. As noted earlier, the expansion of electronic publishing and the dominance of Amazon has drastically cut into the profits of most publishers and, by extension, a writer's royalties. The industry closely tracks book sales. If your book doesn’t sell well, for whatever reason, it will be increasingly difficult to place your manuscript with other publishers. Even if a writer self publishes, they must find a way to be heard above the background noise of a million other writers out their clamoring to sell their books. It’s a fact of life within the industry today.

Years ago the writer’s mantra used to be “Write or Die.” Today it’s “Market or Die.”

The good news is, marketing yourself and your book is neither costly nor difficult, although it does require a considerable commitment of your time and some imagination.

Since you have a product to sell, you need a place to market it, so begin by setting up a blog. Don’t be too elaborate. The goal is to provide a forum to make readers aware of what you are doing (new releases, upcoming contests, attendance at conventions and book signings). As a new writer, there is no need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars setting up an elaborate webpage. A blog will do just fine. Keep it simple: a photo and brief bio, links to your social media and where to purchase your books, and links to other websites such as your publisher(s). One note of caution: put a lot of thought into the URL you use since this will be your brand name for the rest of your career. I opted to use my writing name. The down side to this is that unless someone is looking for me in particular, what are the chances they are going to type my name in the URL field? Others will set up a blog dedicated to their genre with a keyword like "zombie" or "vampire" in the text. The down side to this, of course, is that there are thousands of other URLs with those words in them.

Once you spend the time to create your blog, keep up with it. Try to post on your blog at least three days a week. If a potential fan clicks on your site and sees that it hasn’t been updated since the Cubs won the last World Series, they won’t bother following you. It takes half a day at most to set one up and only a few hours a week to maintain it. Also, be sure to keep the content interesting. While the blog's main intent is to keep readers updated on your writing, don't make the blog only about you how great you are, you’ll bore readers and lose followers.   

“So that’s it? I set up a blog and I’m done marketing my book?"

Hell, no. 

In addition to a blog page, you will also need to establish an author’s account on some of the various social networking sites (SNS) available on the Internet. At the moment, Facebook and Twitter are the most common ones, although there are dozens of SNSs available.

“Cool. I love Facebook. I have a couple of dozen animals on Farmville that I’m taking care of.”

You’re missing the point. Your goal is to market your book, not to ask your friends for hay or create photo albums of your last trip to Europe. 

Do not establish your web presence in a shot gun manner, joining every writing and genre-related blog you come across. I'll explain why in a minute. For now, join a few select groups to make your name known throughout the community. Begin  with Goodreads. This site is dedicated to writers and readers and maintains numerous chat groups that span all genres. Beyond that, do your research and check out various blogs and forums/chat groups. You'll want to do the same on Facebook, liking or joining those that are specific to you. There are three important factors to keep in mind when researching this. One, make certain they are active, with people posting and/or commenting every day. Two, make sure that they're specific to what you're writing. If you write erotic vampire novels that are hardcore and violent in content, you will only be wasting your time on sites dedicated to those who read Stephanie Meyers. Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with the other members of the group and that you enjoy the discussions. 

The reason for this is simple. To make a success in this industry, you are going to need to spend on average two hours a day marketing yourself and your books. The best way to accomplish that is to establish a reputation as an expert in your genre. And this is important, don’t use these sites just to talk about yourself and update people on your latest writing project. Discuss the latest books and movies in your genre, provide links to other sites that are of interest to you and may be of interest to your readers. When responding to others' comments, be respectful, Avoid controversial subjects and flame wars with fans and colleagues. This is one of those instances when bad publicity is worse than no publicity. If you take sides on political issues, militantly support certain causes, or publicly and consistently lambast a colleague as a hack who can’t write, you run the risk of losing major portions of your fan base. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a thousand followers at the end of the first week. This is an agonizingly slow process, so be patient. If you market yourself correctly and give it time, slowly but surely you’ll build up a following of fans who will want to read your book, who will tell their friends to read it, and who will eagerly await your next novel. 

One final thought on marketing. Look for every opportunity you can find to get your name out there. Book signings and conventions are the typical mainstay of writers, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. Convince your local radio and television stations or newspapers to interview you as a hometown celebrity. Arrange virtual book tours (which is especially important if you’re an e-book author) where you have chat room discussions on various forums. Engage in Goodread giveaways. When your second book in the series is about to be released, give away the e-book version of the first book for a week to get people hooked and clamoring to buy the sequel. There are dozens of things you can do to publicize your book, all of which inevitably increase sales. Nothing is off the table. Quirk Books promoted their book Night of the Living Trekkies by creating a Hollywood-quality book trailer that went viral.

Well, that wraps up my blog series on how to get published. Any questions?

“Yeah. You just described a lot of work to go through to be a mid-list author. Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?” 

Good question. Let me answer that… next week.

FINAL BLOG: Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

Monday, November 24, 2014

No Posts From Other Websites This Week

Because I spent most of last week in the hospital with pneumonia and all weekend in bed resting, there will be no Interesting Posts From Other Websites today. And Wednesday's scheduled On Writing blog probably will also be delayed. Sorry.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another Goodreads Giveaway of Yeitso 1-5 December

Not looking forward to camping out in front of the mall Thursday night while fighting off the effects of a Turkey coma, or battling Black Friday shoppers like you were fighting your way through hordes of the undead? Then do I have a deal for you.

From 1 to 5 December, I will be hosting a giveaway of Yeitso on Goodreads that is open to everyone world wide. Five lucky winners will receive an autographed copy of the novel.

So be sure to enter because nothing makes people happier Christmas morning than getting an autographed book from an author (except maybe getting expensive jewelry, video games, a new car, a puppy, or a box of Cuban cigars). But you get the idea. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Wrting: How To Find a Publisher or Literary Agaent, Part II

Let me add a few observations to my last blog about query letters. These are only my opinions, and should not be taken as gospel for getting published or as legal advice. Alternate styles may work better for different writers. For example, if you have no published works to your credit, list your qualifications for writing a novel. If you’re a lawyer whose manuscript is about a courtroom drama, or if you’re a recovering drug addict detailing the struggles of rehab, state that in your query. If your published works have received good reviews from reputable and recognizable sources (your mother’s blog does not count), include a link to those reviews. Be creative. You are selling yourself as much as your manuscript.

Below are same basic guidelines to follow for finding a publisher/agent:

-- Publishers/agents are specific in what they want you to submit along with your query, usually asking for sample chapters and a synopsis, and occasionally for a bio or a marketing strategy. Sometimes they ask for sample chapters to be submitted in a certain font. If you submit a query, be sure to provide what is asked for in the manner it is asked for. Although the main reason is to get a feel for your writing style, your submission also provides a sense for how well you follow guidelines. If a publisher/agent asks for a three-page synopsis, one sample chapter in Courier 10 font, and a marketing strategy, and instead you send a one-page synopsis, three sample chapters in Times New Roman 12 font, and a bio, you immediately send the impression that you cannot/will not follow simple directions. Publishers/agents will be cautious about contracting with you, fearing that you may also be unwilling/unable to follow their editorial guidance and meet deadlines. [NOTE: While I’m willing to make certain changes to the text of sample chapters – such as fonts, line spacing, or margins, all of which can easily be done on a computer – I refuse to do extensive reformatting. I did that once for a publisher whose webpage announced they were accepting manuscripts for consideration. I spent two days preparing the submission to meet their strict and unusual guidelines, e-mailed the query, and got an almost immediate response stating that the publisher was no longer accepting submissions. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.]

-- Every publisher and agent I have talked to decry simultaneous submissions (sending a query to more than one publisher/agent at a time), each relating how they spent several hours reading a submission and accompanying chapters, got excited about the work, and called the author only to find that he/she had contracted with someone else. While I understand their rationale against simultaneous submissions, I find it unreasonable. It can take months for a publisher/agent to respond to you, if they respond at all, and more often than not they are not interested in seeing the entire manuscript. The restriction against simultaneous submissions places an unfair burden on aspiring writers. I see no problem with sending queries to more than one publisher/agent at a time. However, and this is vital, show professional courtesy. If you have one publisher/agent who is reviewing the manuscript and a second one asks to see it, let the second publisher/agent know that someone else is currently looking at it and ask if they still want to see it. Publishers/agents will understand if they contact you based on a query, but someone else has scooped up the manuscript before them. However, if they expend the time to read the entire manuscript only to find out that someone else has already contracted with you, you’ll earn a reputation in the industry you do not want to have.

-- Finally, do not feel compelled to accept any contract offered. I’ve been very fortunate that most of my publisher treat their writers fairly and with respect. Not all are like that. Some are looking for inexperienced writers who they can take advantage of. Several years ago I was contacted by a publisher who said how much he loved my manuscript and wanted to send me a contract. When I received it I laughed. The publisher wanted all rights (print, electronic, audio, radio, TV, movie, as well as the rights to the characters) to my first four books in perpetuity (i.e. forever) and offered a measly 10 percent royalty on all profits. The contract should have been emblazoned with a skull and crossbones in the corner. If a contract doesn’t settle right with you, trust your instincts and question it. Do not sign on the dotted line out of fear that no one will ever again offer you another one. You worked too hard on that book to give all the rights to someone else. As an aside, two weeks after rejecting that ridiculous offer I signed a contract with a reputable publisher for The Vampire Hunter series. 

When it comes to discussing query submissions, this blog touches the tip of the iceberg. But at least it gives you a framework to start from.

“I have my query drafted and ready to send out. Where do I find publishers and literary agents to submit it to?”

Here is where I date myself. When I first became interested in writing, the Bible of the publishing industry was The Writer’s Market. Without the latest edition on your desk, your chances of getting published were slim. However, relying on The Writer’s Market today is about as antiquated as drafting your manuscript on a manual typewriter. Most of the information contained with The Writer's Market is available on line, often through the publisher/agent's own website.

I use four methods to keep track of the market. More are available, but these are the ones I primarily rely on. [NOTE: If I happen to mention a particular service, that should not be taken as an endorsement of one product over another, or as an indication that other products are not as good. I’m merely stating my preferences. Each of you should do your own research and find services that best work for you.]

-- Internet-based publisher digests. There are several out there that encompass all markets and genres, but I use Duotrope ( Duotrope allows you to narrowly define your search parameters to provide listings based on genre, type of publication (short stories, novellas, or full-length novels; print or electronic publishing), length of work, submission guidelines, and other criteria. Each listing also contains a link to that publisher’s homepage so you can get the most up-to-date information. One feature about this service I particularly like is that you can sign up for Duotrope’s weekly e-mail update that lists the markets open to submission, updates those which are dead or closed to submissions, and provides a list of upcoming anthologies by theme. Several of my earlier works were placed with publishers I discovered on Duotrope. 

 -- Your local bookstore. You can find a wealth of information here. Check out new arrivals to see which houses have published books in your genre, and use that as a starting point for your research. Also remember to check out the acknowledgement page, for you often get the names of editors and literary agents to contact who work in your genre. 
-- Conventions. Though less readily available then the first two, writers and genre conventions are among your most valuable resource. Publishers/agents use these to seek out new talent, so they are most receptive to hear what you have to offer. Practice your elevator pitch and make sure it doesn’t sound rehearsed. And be prepared in case the publisher starts asking detailed questions about your work or you. I have seen writers nail that opening pitch and get all tongue-tied during the follow-up talks. Remember, nobody knows your book better than you do. If you find a publisher who wants to see more of your work, contact him/her the moment you get home, reminding him/her in your cover letter that you just met at the convention and that you are sending along the material he/she asked you to.

-- On-line forums and groups. These can be extremely helpful if you join the correct ones. You want to find forums/groups populated by aspiring and/or new writers who are serious about their craft.  Publishers/agents often cruise these sites searching for new talent, and if they are impressed they may contact you offline and ask you to submit. There are also forums/groups where publishers actively seek out authors. That's how I sold Dead Water. And don’t forget Facebook. I placed "Last Flight of The Bismarck" with an editor I met via a Facebook group that was seeking submissions for a steampunk horror anthology.  (These forums/groups are also invaluable in helping you market your book, which I will discuss in the next blog posting.)

All right, ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who have been reading this blog series from the beginning, you have enough tools available to write your novel. You’ve abandoned family, friends, and pets to make the time to write and have spent the last year drafting and editing and revising and re-editing and re-revising and re-re-revising your work. You’ve sent out an endless stream of query letters, suffered through the flood of rejections (or worse, the annoying lack of responses from publishers). But you have prevailed and finally found someone to publish your work. Your book is being released next month.


Now the hard part begins.

NEXT BLOG: Marketing Your Book a
nd Yourself

Monday, November 17, 2014

Interesting Posts From Other Websites

Over the months, I've seen several postings on Facebook and horror blogs about the discovery of vampire burial sites in East Europe. Time To Slay Vampire Burials? is a short academic study that examines the archaeological and social evidence surrounding these burial practices and whether these practices are indicative of a belief in the undead or have a basis in other factors. posted a list of their picks for the 20 Best Vampire Movies as voted on by their readers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Humorous Look at Grammar and Writing

It's the difference between a family-friendly holiday story or a Jeffrey Dahmer Thanksgiving special.

 The importance of commas (or as Christopher Walken would say: "The, importance of, commas.")

 And sometimes that happens all in one day.

And much easier than using a Thesaurus.

Punctuation really does matter.