Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm on tour! ... sort of

I've recently had a few life-changing events going on (will post more about them as time goes on), but right now I'm eagerly working to get my thriller, Saturnine, finished.

In the meantime, I kidnapped S.M. Boyce's blog the other day, writing about "What New Indies Should Know," so check it out. (And go read her new book The Grimoire: Lichgates if you like paranormal fiction. I'm reading it now and so far it's great!)

This coming Friday, December 2nd, check Pat Thunstrom's blog A Digital Magician for my post "Market madness: Focus on the book, not the buzz."

And check Paisley Sound, because I'm planning to release a review and hopefully get some new music up next week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest post by S.M. Boyce, on marketing your novel

S.M. Boyce is a fantasy and paranormal fiction novelist who recently published her debut novel The Grimoire: Lichgates. Boyce updates her blog weekly so that you have something sarcastic to wake you up in the morning. Also, her Creative Writing degree entitles her to both be pompous and serve you french fries.

She has been actively marketing her new novel and offered to talk a bit about what she’s learned. Feel free to get in touch with her and to connect online, since she loves meeting new people (all links and details at the end of the post).
Hey guys! Laura has graciously let me take over her blog for today to talk to you about marketing your novel.

It’s important to remember that I wrote this post with the assumption that you’ve already listened to the number one rule of authorship: write a good book. It sounds pretty basic, I know, but your prerequisite for reading this blog post is to either have a unique, well-written novel or be in the process of writing one. All set? Awesome, let’s keep going.

People tell me that marketing daunts them, and I can understand that. Those who are used to listening to radio and TV ads may think that they have to also push, push, push…and that is usually about as much fun as a root canal.

Thing is, there are multiple kinds of marketing and selling. Yes, once of them is the targeted “push” method of 30-second advertising sound-bites, but that’s a tough racket. I’ve found much more success in social networking. I’m sure you know that social networking is a powerful tool, but let’s talk for a minute about just how important it really is.

Social networking is all about starting a conversation. That means you as the author are there to share.Keep in mind that not everyone will be interested and not everyone will like your book.

The key is to find your marketing balance between polite and confident. You should have a healthy self-assurance about yourself and your book when you’re marketing, but absolutely no one wants you to post thirty tweets a day about your book – that will get you unfollowed and unfriended faster than you can blink. But if you feel uneasy, you’ll come off as such. People won’t be as inclined to listen, much less go on to share your message with their friends. Approach interactions with a confident and open-minded manner and people will receive it that way. If you care about your book and believe that it’s an amazing product (see blog prerequisite) then you’re not really selling…you’re spreading the word.

The Road to More Readers

There is no cut-and-dry path to success.

Oh, were you expecting a list? Sorry, that’s not how this works. If there was a rulebook, everyone would read it and then those steps would become obsolete. Truthfully, I think the steps most successful people take often bring them success simply because no one else has thought of doing it that way before.

Have a marketing plan full of all the ways you’re going to get yourself out there. Add to it constantly. If one idea fails, move onto the next. Don’t give yourself time to become disappointed, because I can tell you right now that not every one of your ideas will work, and that’s okay. Your goal, in the end, is to be seen as many places as possible. Stick to it and don’t give up. Find what works for you, your target audience, and your book, and build on that.

The way I see it, there are really only three set rules to being successful in crowded markets:
1. Most of what has been done once probably won’t work again.
2. Be creative, innovative, and new.
3. Be assertive but polite.

Basically, you need to be different and innovative. Do new things. Come up with creative ideas. Think outside the circle that’s outside the box.

Step #3 was really more of a personal observation. You don’t want to give up too easily (hence, the assertive), but you don’t want to piss people off (hence, the polite). I have heard of authors sending bloggers death threats because the blogger either didn’t write a favorable review or didn’t write one at all. Seriously?

I know that you’re above this, but it disappoints me that any authors do this at all. If someone doesn’t like your book, thank them for their time and move on. You can’t please everyone and you’ll go crazy if you try.

Some Ideas

So now that we’ve shaken off the thought that there’s some sort of step-by-step guide to making everything work perfectly, let’s work with that clean slate.

There are two significant tips I have to successfully market your book:
1. Be everywhere at once.
2. Forge lasting relationships (not one-night stands!).

Successful marketing is all about being everywhere at once. Be everywhere you can. Work with everyone you can. Talk to everyone you can. When someone asks you if you want to do something, the answer should be “Sure!” unless it’s going to hurt you in some way (that Nigerian prince isn’t really going to send you any money). “I don’t feel like it” won’t really cut the cheese.

On that same note, make friends. The fancy term for this is “networking,” but that has always struck me as a manipulative term. To me, “networking” implies that you’re only building friendships that benefit you. Don’t do that, because those relationships will flounder.

If you want to go out there and really make an impact on the literary world, do it through meeting as many amazing people as you can. Talk to them on Twitter. Facebook them. Plus one their book on Google+. Start email conversations about books you both like and, hell, the weather. Go to their blog and leave a comment. Follow their blog if it’s interesting. Review their book on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords (if applicable). Critique their stories on Scribophile or Critique Circle.

*Catches breath* You know what? Go ahead and start with me. I challenge you. See my contact info below and get in touch with me. Tell me about your cats, dogs, books, marketing ideas, whatever. Make me laugh.

The point is this: there are an unlimited number of ways to meet people. If you talk about your book, fine…but don’t make that your central point of focus. In the end, you’re not really selling your book. You’re selling yourself. You as a writer are a brand: your personality, your energy, your intelligence, and your experience all factor into your online presence, which is what the internet really wants to see.

One story comes and goes. Yes, books turn into classics, but nine times out of ten people are going to love and respect the author more than the story. Go out and be awesome.

Contact S.M. Boyce
Feel free to poke, prod, and ponder in S.M. Boyce’s general direction
Boyce’s novel: The Grimoire: Lichgates

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview with Ross Payton, author of Zombies of the World

Ross Payton is a podcaster and writer whose most recent book is Zombies of the World: A Field Guide to the Undead. The book looks at zombies from a scholarly perspective, classifying 20 species (like the "Revenant" and the "Dancing Zombie") in a humorous guide with fantastic art.

It also includes a history of zombies, and tips for surviving a zombie invasion ("Lesson 1: Humans are the Greatest Danger"). I've read it and can definitively say that if you love zombies, you'll enjoy this book.

LB: On your web site, you noted that you decided to write the book after you started the web series. What made you decide to start a web series about zombies?

RP: "I'm a lifelong horror fan so I think about the minutia quite a bit. One thing that struck me in zombie stories was how they never got tired, even the ones that never ate a human. It made me start thinking about how the undead are powered so I pictured a world in which zombies were studied not slain. From there, I came up with the idea for Omega Anima and multiple species. After some world building, I thought I would tell this story as a mockumentary web series - something I could actually make and show to others."

Your web series videos are hilarious, and I especially liked "Episode 3: Extinction." Not many authors are making videos to promote their work. Can you talk about how you went about writing/filming them?

Zombies of the World Episode 3 - Extinction

"I have a background in media production - I did a video podcast, and I made a low budget horror-comedy called Motor Home from Hell. Because of this background, I knew a lot of actors and crew that would volunteer for a short production and I knew what I could make and what was my beyond my means. With that in mind, I wrote a script that I could actually produce. It's 12 pages long. I broke it up into episodes, each of which is 2-4 pages long.

I enlisted the help of a friend, Jason Brasier, with the production. He was essential in getting it done. We broke the script down into several days of shooting at 3 main locations.

I wouldn't recommend doing a web series like this for a book unless you already have the skill sets, connections and equipment. It's just as hard as writing, if not harder, and the payoff can be variable."

The layout of Zombies of the World looks incredibly professional--better than most other books I see. How did you go about learning layout design, and what program did you use?

"I'm a self taught graphic designer. I started with Microsoft Publisher and worked my way up. Learning took practice and studying with a lot of design books and program manuals. I used Adobe Indesign to lay out Zombies of the World. I took the look of ZOTW from nature guidebooks like bird guides and textbooks. I wanted it to look like a real zombie field guide would look like if the undead were real.

Again, I wouldn't recommend trying a fancy design for your book unless you already know how to do so. In fact, the layout's been a disadvantage in some ways - namely trying to convert the book into an ebook format was a difficult and tedious process. There's little information on converting complex layouts into a form acceptable for Kindle and epub."

What have been people's reactions to the book?

"I've been very fortunate that Zombis of the World has received many highly positive reviews. People love the quality of the art and writing and the novelty of the idea. My favorite review has been from Kenneth Hite. He's an established writer that has his own Wikipedia entry.

I had asked Kenneth for a review of my book and he said he would look at it but he wouldn't commit to a review. I was quite happy to find out he did!"

What other projects are you working on?

"I'm the co-host for a tabletop role playing game podcast called Role Playing Public Radio and RPPR Actual Play.

I'm currently writing a follow up novel to Zombies of the World. It's called "Dead Power" and follows a group of humans and intelligent zombies working together to stop a crisis before the military bombs them all. It will feature many different species from Zombies of the World. It will be action focused and it's been pretty fun to write. I hope to have it out in the next few months."

Thanks Ross! For more info or to buy the book, go to

Interview with Eileen Young, author of Intervention

I'm starting a new series of author interviews. Today I had a chance to interview Eileen Young, author of the erotic novella Intervention. She's the editor of Island Writer Magazine, and managing editor of Theory Train (a literary magazine), and blogs at Authors Refuge.

Full disclosure: Eileen is also my editor, and I haven't read her novella. But she agreed to answer some questions for me so I could sharpen my interview skills.

Where is your book available?
"It's available for free download from Feedbooks."

Why did you decide to release it for free?
"Because it was a collaboration with a friend of mine, and we're both big fans of Creative Commons licensing. We wanted people to read it a lot more than we wanted whatever money we could get from it. I've also considered releasing my other projects under Creative Commons licensing, though that also hits the issue of what I'd charge and what kind of margin I'd look for on the hard copies for sale when I was giving away the ebook."

What was the process of co-writing it like?
"It was really interesting, as it was the first joint project that's made it to completion. Mason, my co-author, didn't often want to write portions of it (the boring bits between plot points), but he was full of ideas. It involved a lot of discussion and world-building - way more than is reflected in the story itself - just so we could stay internally consistent."

Give us a quick elevator pitch of the book. 
"Evelyn Green, an empathic spy, is teamed up with rookie cyborg Mikhail Cerwinski to investigate anomalies in Tahiti. Clothes come off."

Would you recommend Feedbooks to other authors?
"I think it depends on your genre, and also the way you want to license it. Feedbooks does not allow independent authors to charge for books, which is fantastic if you're aiming for Creative Commons. One thing I've seen a lot recently, though, is authors putting up samples of their books, with links to their Smashwords page at the end. That's not cool at all, and I think against the ToS, though I'd have to check. I just know it annoys me as a reader.  Feedbooks tends to end up with erotica as the most popular category for the user-generated books, too, so it might not be the best place for your contemplative memoir."

So, basically just free books...?
Feedbooks also has an ebook store, which has contemporary titles, and a Public Domain section featuring everything from Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights to Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.

What current projects are you working on?
"Right now, I'm working on a young adult series set in New York, featuring angels and fairies and a whole lot of snark. The first one is nearing completion, and the first draft for the second is my NaNoWriMo project."

Thanks Eileen!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Disaster, day by day - journal of a winter storm

On October 29th, a snowstorm hit my area and caused a massive power outage. This follows a record snowfall from January to April 2011, a tornado on June 1st that killed several people and destroyed homes, two tropical storms, and a "microburst" that caused further damage. We thought we were in for a quiet autumn...

Saturday, Oct 29th, 1:30 pm. I dress up the kids and they head outside, and I'm astonished. Outside, it's snowing. Sure, all the local stations had forecast a Nor'easter storm with 6-10 inches of snow, but it's still incredible: white powder blanketing orange and brass-colored autumn leaves, which still haven't finished falling.

4:30 pm. The snow is starting to pile up, and I look outside at the leafy trees. If any branches fall, we will definitely lose power. I decide to put dinner on early so that the oven heats up the house and we have a hot meal.

5:30 pm. The lights have been flickering. Then everything electronic halts at once, and the house goes dark.

7 pm. It's still snowing and the roads are impassible. We light candles, and everyone goes off to bed early, accompanied by blankets. We hope for power sometime the next day. I write in my journal: "It's October, and it's snowing. Not just snowing--one of those all-out New England blizzards that grinds traffic to a halt and washes the world out into a mist of snow and ice, the trees and ground glistening white, the sky a pale gray. [...] Lightning streaks the sky, but there is no thunder--the overburdening feeling, aside from the low rumble of snow tumbling off the trees, is silence."

The trees are bent over and twisted with snow, and look like Dr. Seuss creations. I put on mittens and a hat and go back to bed, my chances at sleep interrupted by the slow ker-ack of trees snapping and the low rumble of snow tumbling onto snow.

Sunday, October 30th. Total snowfall: 14 inches. Trees are down everywhere, and many roads are blocked. Power lines are snapped and lying in the streets. But the day is otherwise uneventful: we shovel the driveway, I bundle up the kids to play in the snow, and we read the newspaper to glean when power might return. School is cancelled for the week, and shelters are set up for people with no power. People text or call to check in on us. We decide to stay home: it's cold, but we still have water.

Monday, October 31st. The mayor sends out an automated call to most homes in the city, announcing that Halloween has been postponed until the following Saturday night. This devastates the young ones around the house. But with no street lights and wires and entire trees down, it's far too dangerous for kids to be trekking out in the dark.

My youngest brother, who has autism, stares at the computer gloomily. "No power?" he says.

Tuesday, November 1st. We go to the mall, which is still powered and open, to have a hot meal and see if I can connect my laptop to the wifi for my brother. No luck. The bookstore is packed with people on laptops. One of my younger brothers, who yesterday was devastated by no Halloween, is now happy. "This is such an adventure!" he says, repeating what I said over the past few days.

Even the heat in the car is dizzying, and when we get back home, the temperature is a chilly 51 degrees. We walk around in coats and gloves.

8 pm. At night, the stars are beautiful, and I've never seen so many. But I hear lots of faint police sirens and ambulance wails. So far two people have died, electrocuted by downed wires, and more have been injured by carbon monoxide (in desperate attempts to heat their homes, they brought outdoor grills inside--dangerous!). There have also been fires, mostly attributed to candles.

The air is icy cold, and when I can no longer read with my dying flashlight or by candles (after a few days of testing, I have decided Yankee candles smell terrible, and Glades are far superior), I trudge off to bed. I remember I set up Twitter for my phone, and sent out a quick update: "On day 4 of no power and Internet. I hate snow." But I'm unable to check for any replies.

Wednesday, November 2nd. I'd received a call saying power had been restored to my college, so I drove off--only to find many of the roads still blocked by crews removing trees. I go in to work, happy to find they have heat and lights.

Thursday, November 3rd. Power returns at night for us, but many are still without it. The first thing I do is order a new flashlight. Industrial strength, waterproof, floating--I think the next disaster will be a flood.