It’s all in the marketing…

There’s been a lot of buzz in my writing chapter lately due to the fact that two of our members, AC James and Kathy Kulig, recently published a box set with other writers and the collection just went wild.  Hit both the New York Times as well as the USA Today best seller lists.  Congratulations to both of them.  It’s so nice to see friends achieving their goals.  Gives the rest of us some hope.

With that in mind, I’ve decided it was time I delved into the intricacies of marketing.  I was a marketing minor in college and have two rather extraordinary marketing geniuses in my family, so I am hoping it’s genetic.  My aunt, who gave me my first typewriter back in the 70s, was a marketing CEO for companies such as Heinz, Planters and Lifesavers.  My cousin is one of the youngest CCOs for a large media corporation.  And while I can’t claim fame to any marketing job I’ve ever had, I hope to glean some insight into what makes people want to buy.

In writing, I had always thought it was quality.  Write a good book, people want to buy it and they tell their friends.  But in today’s tech savvy world, that is no longer the case.  You have to push your work everywhere, on every platform.  Bombard Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with promo blips that thousands of people will see all at once.  Get yourself out there.

There is also the stipulation of longevity.  Unlike some authors, I cannot spit out a book every three months in order to keep voracious readers knocking on my door.  It takes me a year to write a book, sometimes longer depending on what’s going on in my life.  The fact that I have a demanding full-time job with a 3 hour round trip commute doesn’t help.  I know I make excuses when the muse doesn’t come knocking and it’s something I have recently beat out of myself by joining with a great group of writers who push me and hold me accountable.

That aside, the point is to get your work out there. And here I am.  My next book, “Love in the Stars”, which is book two of the Lambourne Legacy series, should be completed in the next two weeks and, by some miracle, will hopefully be in print for you all by September.  Maybe even earlier.

If you are unfamiliar with the Lambourne Legacy, the first book “Earl of my Heart” is still available at any number or retailers, including Amazon.

Happy Reading!

I rolled a 20….

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a geek.  Even at 49, I still love to play video games with the best of them and I think I’ve owned pretty much every console known, except the last couple.  My affinity is for first person shooters, as they are called, but for me it’s not for the shooting.  It’s for that first person POV –  The immediate immersion into someone else’s life besides your own.

Going way back, I was an old school gamer, D&D all the way.  I’ve done the 3 day weekend binges, the treks to GenCon and the immortalization of characters so old and well used that they were no fun to play anymore.  I mean, when you can kill pretty much everything thrown at you, where’s the fun it that?

I recently found my old D&D Binder (signed by Gary Gygax in 1994 when I ran into him at GenCon) that showed me that my love for world building and character development during my gaming years is no different from how I do it now as an author.  In fact, looking at my old character sheets with stats and sketches, I can see that I took much of that format when I started to write and it helped me to develop my characters more fully.  Give them a life I could immerse myself into, something all writers must do to hook their readers.

Playing D&D all those years ago also gave me a great way to creatively test plot ideas, capture dialogue and note action and reaction.  So now I am jonesing to play again, to get into the shoes of my old characters and live their life through their eyes.  It’s a 20th century equivalent to the modern-day first person shooter, but in D&D, you are the catalyst for where the story goes.  If you want to shift plot, you act on it.  Just like a writer would do.  It’s the ultimate, aggressive “what if” in real time.   It’s as if you are now the DM and this world is yours to create or destroy as you see fit and having this in my past has made me aware that it has shaped my writing tremendously.

And I’m glad I gamed, and still do.

Advice to new writers…

girlWe were all new once.  Bright eyed and dreaming of earning enough money to buy a piazza in the hills of Tuscany, where we could write and write to our hearts content and receive continual royalties to never have to do much ever again.

OK, now welcome to the real world.  More and more, publishing is a crap shoot.  Not only is it harder to get into established publishing houses, but everyone and their grandmother are self publishing to the point where Amazon and like wholesalers are deluged with titles, enough that even the best of them could get lost.  So what to do?

Well, I’m no expert, but I can certainly give advice on what not to do from the perspective of someone who’s seen the process from both sides for over 15 years.  I can also mention that I’ve been on the inside, having worked for a publishing house in the years before self publishing became all the rage.

The first thing I will say is – be patient.  I know that’s a near impossibility with attention spans these days at a 15 minute limit, but trust me, you will reap the benefits of having done so.  So many times before I have seen new writers rush headlong into the fray, signing contracts without thought, paying thousands for marketing and commercialization only to be burned in the end.  The instant thrill of book signings and speaker events is enough to make a newbie heady with arrogance and give them a “look at me, I’m an instant success” air, which slowly turns into a cloud of smelly funk after the excitement dies off.  Older, more experienced writers will see them as a flash in the pan because in most cases, they are.  When the realization of deadlines comes into focus and you realize your contract has you writing three full length novels in the next 6 months, things will begin to look a little less exciting.  All the accolades your marketing department paid to get you will pale in comparison to the true readers reviews you will start seeing when the work you thought paralleled Hemingway was nothing short of a third grade essay, grammatical errors included.

Watch what you pay for.  Marketing and reviews can be had on very little if you watch the market and grow a fan base on your own before your novels are published.  This is easily done with bursts to Twitter, Facebook and especially Goodreads.

Second piece of advice with this in mind – tone it down.  We all know you’re excited that your new book has been released, and we’re happy for you, but we don’t want to see hyper, multi-replicated posts about it on every media outlet known to man.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen members of groups outcast for this very action.  Do not ignore your online writers groups or local writing chapter for months on end and then suddenly appear with a box of books to sell and thousands of “look at me and my fabulous book” posts to them.  I’ll give you a hint, we’re writers too, it’s not such a miraculous event to us and we’re more likely to not buy your book if you mention it 15 times in one day.

Also, check your group’s guidelines before you start plastering your ads on every loop.  Most groups have specific areas for PR alone where you can post to your heart’s content.  Yes, it will be lumped together with a hundred other fabulous ads, but guess what, that’s the real world.  Publishing is not an overnight success sort of occupation.  Even Nora Roberts had to battle her way through editors and agents to get to where she is today.  She didn’t become famous overnight.  Neither did Jane Austen, or Suzanne Brockmann or Steven King for that matter.  They all put in their time, earned their reviews and received their fair share of rejections, and you will too, if you’re patient and allow yourself to grow and learn from those who have come before you.