Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Patchwork of Me Giveaway

I love road trips.

It's actually strange that I like them so much as I always got car sick as a child. But as long as I'm in the front seat...there is something about taking to the road to get to a destination. And if you find the correct traveling partner - it makes all the difference in the world. I've gone from Canada to Florida - from NJ to Michigan and down to Asheville, NC. Lowering the windows, stopping for food (now you'll know which character I relate to in my latest novel), seeing the sights. I really enjoy it all.

And I want to hear from YOU.

Would you like a chance to read my latest novel before it comes out on April 15? I want to send you a signed copy of Patchwork of Me and all you have to do is share a small blurb about your favorite road trip memory. Either comment on the bottom of this blog or write it on the wall on my author Facebook page. We'll be choosing the best "road trip story" and that person will get a signed copy of the book by April 1. You have until March 15 to put on those thinking caps and get to writing!

Patchwork of Me is about a woman who realizes she must travel from Arizona to Maine to patch her life back together and confront her past. While there is some mystery and intrigue in this cross-genre story that deals with self-discovery; it would never be complete without some fun times with her 'mafia' of friends. So Sara travels with two gay men to face the demons of her past; and they help her face them with love, support...and a sexual innuendo or double-entendre now and again.

I'd love to see my book cover all over this car!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Setting The Price for Your Product

This past week, it was announced in the news that Amazon removed thousands of titles from their virtual shelves because they felt they were priced too high. It truly got me thinking about how authors and indie publishers price their works. When I thought about pricing, I know my publisher (ASD Publishing) looked at similar books, sizes, genres to come up with the rate a book should be. There is no way I can compete with the big named authors/publishers (though good money is spent on the products to make them as professional as can be), so I did not want to overprice my work and in turn: lose a reader. There are so many books out there, and I'll admit that I'm torn. I realize the time and effort that goes into the writing, editing, polishing, publishing of that small 'baby'. And to simply 'give it away' seems like there is no value on it. (I always say in my day job of running an arts center "Free admission places no value on the production." I feel the same way about books. However, I try to keep my works in the ballpark so they can play the game (knowing all online places will be discounting it anyways) and still make more than a quarter off of each book sold. I personally have seen some indie books that I feel are priced too high - priced like a NY Times Best Selling Author & I know I've decided not to take a chance on some of those books since I don't know the author's work.

So I began to wonder what others do. Those authors out there pricing their own works and/or running a small publishing company. I questioned three of them and their answers are below.

Carey Parrish Author/Blogger  Website  Blog   Amazon 
Alina Oswald Writer/Photographer  Blog  Amazon  
Kergan Edwards-Stout Author/Publisher  Website Amazon

Thank you all for joining me today. Let's get down to a few questions. 

What do you use to determine price of your product? 

Carey Parrish
I go by what I think the book should sell for and use others as a guidepost when I'm not sure. - Carey Parrish
To price my books I usually look at similar books, comparing price, page number, size, photos (and number of photos). Being a photographer, I also look at paper quality (and, yes, images), especially when photos are included. I know that printing a book (text and images) on the same kinda paper is much cheaper than printing images on glossy paper and text on regular white/cream paper. In addition, I think one should compare books in the same category... not only genre - but also the overall 'look' of the book, cover, attention to details, these sorts of things. - Alina Oswald
My goal has been for my book to appear the same as other authors whose work I respect, and I did a review of other like books in the marketplace to help determine pricing.  For me, the goal in everything I've done--from the look of the book, to the color of the pages, to the cover finish, to the price--has been to be in parity with books published by the bigger houses. - Kergan Edwards-Stout

Have you ever felt your book sales were lower because you were priced higher than similar books in your genre? 

I did in the case of my short story anthology. - CP
Alina Oswald
I always have questions as a writer and photographer on how low/high to price my work. I used to price them very, very low, at a level that I was losing money. I usually try to go for a fair price. If I price them slightly higher, I can bargain with a buyer and I still end up with a decent price. To make the story short, I think I price my work, in general, lower than I'd like to. - AO
Ultimately, I want to be seen as a quality product, and lower pricing or discounts can give the impression that something is of less quality, so I haven't gone down the discount pricing road. - KES

How do you feel about when authors slash their prices and gain major sales in one day? 

I say if it works go for it. Authors like us have to use marketing ploys like this to get our work noticed in a lot of cases. - CP
I think that... the more expensive the book, the less copies you have to sell; the lower the price of the book, the more books you have to sell to make some money. I talked to a lot of photographers who sell their work at fairs, festivals, etc. One told me she never lowers the price of her work, not even before closing time; she doesn't bargain either. I think that an author should slash prices or give away free books if necessary, but for a limited--hopefully very brief--amount of time. I know (myself included) photographers who do not up their rates because of the economy. I also know photographers, top-notch ones who charge a fortune to start with, who increase their rates or, at least do not work for less. I think this idea can be applied to authors, too. I believe that the more known the author, the more leverage he/she has to not lower the price of their books. I think we have to learn to balance our ballet walk on that fine line. - AO
Kergan Edwards-Stout
If the number of sales are their priority, more power to them.  For me, though, the price speaks to the quality of the writing.  if I see a paperback priced 15.99 and another 6.99, it places a question mark in my head as to whether the cheaper is any good. - KES

Thoughts on online bookstores that dictate pricing. 

I think it's a sham in some cases, especially when they jack up the prices on some books so that a lot people in this economy can't afford them. - CP
Online bookstores, like the brick-and-mortar ones (which are disappearing fast) have the right to set their prices. I think there are a few things to keep in mind: if they do editing/promotion/cover art/etc then they have the right to have a say-so in pricing; if they don't do anything else but upload what you send them (without proofing or anything of the sort) then their slice of the pie should be much smaller. I think it's just common sense... And I think it's, again, based on the quality (not only quantity) of their work. - AO

Thanks you, all for being so honest with your answers.

Check out these authors online - and I can tell you, you'll be glad for whatever price spent reading their works.

As for the other authors/publishers that follow my blog, please feel free to respond below in the comments section. I'd love to hear from more people and start a dialogue about pricing.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Are You a Simpleton or Brilliant?

The cast of Seminar
As a writer I could not wait to see the play Seminar on Broadway.

As a theater enthusiast I knew the ensemble company lead by Alan Rickman would be witnessing Broadway gold. And the acting was pretty wonderful (though each actor played or was directed to play the entire show on one note: one delivery: one thought). 

As an audience member, I left the show feeling the magnificent scene change was the best part of the play.

I'm trying to determine what 'went wrong' for me (and I say for me as I have found glowing reviews online for this show). Though the two I attended the show with both felt the same at the end; each thinking the other must be enjoying this new comedy and it was 'just us' feeling let down.

In a nutshell, the play is about a group of writers who pay a mentor $5,000 each to work with them for 10 weeks on their writing. A mentor that can rip them apart by reading the first line of their manuscript. (Yes, Alan Rickman's character would have stopped reading my blog after the first sentence.) The group sit around pontificating about art and what determines a good writer and honestly never goes much further than that.

Or am I just so obtuse that I can't experience the nuances that playwright Theresa Rebeck is articulating in her word choices in this piece? After all, she is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Peabody Award winner while I've only won a best score award for a musical and a finalist in the USA Best Book Awards.

Those that know me and my writing know you don't get the flowery fifty dollar words when reading my work. Nor is that who I am as a reader. I realize there are all kinds in the world and that's what makes reading so great. We get choices. My choice leans towards stories that make me feel something. That challenge me as a person - not challenge how many large words I can come up with to string together in a complicated piece of prose that causes a reader to REREAD a sentence because they didn't get it. I find movies and plays show this one archetype - the writer who is always deeply thinking and can't live in the real world. 

Perhaps that was my problem with the entire thing as a play. Not that it was because I didn't feel I was represented on that stage (as people know I'm always in my head: my world is just less Ivy League and more street). But because this play did not transport me anywhere! Because it didn't go anywhere. It stayed on a loop, caught up in its on witty banter and jargon while characters attempted to find themselves. Something we've seen over and over and that New York audiences tend to eat up with a silver spoon.

You may absolutely find you love it on your next trip to NYC. Many of the larger reviewers did. It must speak to who I am that the reviewer that comes closest to saying how I felt was a smaller review with amNewYork.

I did find one thing rather telling. I'm sure it was meant as a joke in this 'comedy' - but in my has actually rang true.

"An editor is there to show you what you meant in your writing, even when you didn't know you meant it."

Thank God us non-pedantic writers have editors that can find all the symbolism and meaning in our trite work - what would we do without them? <wink>

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Q&A With Children's Book Author Tanya Valentine

Today's blog is about 'practicing what I preach'. As an author, I have many friends who have their own books out there and I read/review and tell people about them. My twitter bio says I'm about "paying-it-forward" and I believe writers should do that for each other. It is not a contest of who will get more readers or make the most sales. But the past three weeks (and three weeks back in December), you all know I've been competing with other authors to get a children's book published. It really felt strange because I liked other stories I read - but it was about getting the most votes which in some odd way instantly makes the other people 'your adversary'. 

Well, that challenge ends today - but not before I introduce people to someone else in the challenge. Tanya Valentine was one of the front runners in round one and I remember working hard to get up to the top where she and another author resided. We constantly were battling it out back and forth. All along, I knew she had a great story and an even more wonderful inspiration to the story. As a family that has adoption in our history (my little brother was adopted) and as an author who writes about diversity (and Tanya's story is full of that as a white bear adopts a brown bear) - I knew I had an affinity to that story and wanted to share it. 

So today...I welcome one of my "competitors" (silly word) to my blog. Tanya is someone I'll admit to trying my best to get ahead of all through December, but someone I'm glad MeeGenius introduced me to. 

Welcome to my blog, Tanya! 

Aw! Thank you so much, Greg. I am so excited to be a part of your blog! Thank you for inviting me to share my book/adoption story with your readers. 

Tell us about your book. 

Clearly ALL BEARS NEED LOVE is a BRILLIANT, ADORABLE, LIFE-CHANGING picture book that everyone must read! 
   Actually, my little book was inspired by my son’s adoption and is very near and dear to my heart. It is the story of a baby brown bear who arrives at the zoo, all alone and frightened. Against the advice of the other animals in the zoo (especially the camel - who is a real jerk), Mama Polar Bear makes the baby bear part of her family. 

I've read about it here, but please tell readers what inspired you to write it. 

The story sort of “whooshed” through me after we adopted our son, Benjamin. At the time, my husband and I had one biological son and I belonged to a Mom’s club in central Florida. The friends I made in that group were wonderfully supportive and amazingly generous. However, a few neighbors and friends who had previously offered to throw a baby shower stopped calling after we brought Ben home from the hospital. It became clear to us that they were not thrilled with a white family adopting a black child. And once, when Ben and I were checking out at the grocery store, the black cashier mumbled something about (paraphrasing here) how I had no right taking one of their babies. The small-mindedness of some people was shocking and incredibly sad. Even our friends and family who love us and adore Benjamin had questions: how will we explain the adoption to Ben? How will we deal with the reaction of others? What do you do with black hair? I’m certain there will be many more questions down the road. We did not go into an interracial adoption naively, but the reactions and questions from friends, family, and strangers as well as my big, big love for Ben, were the inspiration for the book. 

Can you tell us a little about your past in writing; how long and what you got your started? 

About five years ago, I took a Creative Writing class at the local community college, primarily to get away from the house and kids (any stay-at-home moms reading this will understand the need to escape!), but also because I really enjoyed writing. During that class, I created a character named Creepy Casey, an insanely optimistic and energetic 4th grade outcast. I’m currently working on the second book in this middle grade series. 

What has the MeeGenius Challenge meant to you? 

This is my first writer’s competition and, although it can be daunting to share such a personal story, the reaction of readers has been wonderful. I’ve received amazing emails from complete strangers – some adopted, some who have adopted – sharing their stories and telling me ALL BEARS made they cry. I love making people cry! 
   I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to share my little bear’s story with so many readers. 

Thanks so much for joining me today, Tanya! I'm really glad I got the chance to share in this experience with you. 

And I ask everyone to click HERE and read Tanya's story and get some more votes in on this final day! (But my readers better not put her over me!    ) 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Missed Opportunities

Have you ever been so wrapped up in your life that you can't see what is going on around you? That your personal views and opinions get in the way of some major event taking place outside your window? I know I sometimes get so busy that I forget to experience what is happening at a given moment. And I know that we all have certain convictions that make us turn our eyes to what some call progress and others call a march backwards.

I'm sure there were some men in 1920 that agreed with what the women's suffrage movement was doing, but wanted to keep their mouths shut. They knew that everyone should have the right to vote since the US was a country for 'all'. I'm all but certain there were white people in the south during the 60s who believed in the civil rights movement and ached every time they saw a black person at the back of the bus or not allowed to sit at the counter of a coffee shop.

And now, there are brave men and women in each state voting in equality for gays to marry - crossing party lines because they believe it is the right thing to do. They not only see the future; they see what is fair. Not based on religious beliefs, but what civil liberties mean in the US. They realize that gays and lesbians are contributing to their states; to society - paying taxes and living productive lives. Why should they be denied to love and live like others?

I believe that equality is going to happen - in my lifetime. I want to see it happen. But I'm saddened by politicians who allow politics to get in the way of doing what is right. They think in terms of their forward careers instead of of the opportunity that is before them to be on the right side of history as it is being made. 

Governor Christie of New Jersey is one such man. Many will praise his decision to veto a bill brought to him by the state assembly and senate. Others will see the missed opportunity that was in front of him. While I wish him no ill in not listening to what many elected officials agreed upon - in believing he is the sheriff of the 'wild west' and what he says goes...but I do hope that legacy will follow him for the rest of his life. And I hope when all other states around him finally offer the equality so deserved, he will look back and ask himself "why didn't I do it when I had the chance?"

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."  ~Thomas Edison

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Finish Line: In The Distance

Have you ever run a race and felt that adrenaline you get as you near the finish line? 

I'll admit, I'm not a runner. (The only race I ever ran was in elementary school and I immortalized it in my my novel Well With My Soul - not a pretty finish.) But I remember that excitement that would start pumping as someone handed me the baton and I could see the ending.

The MeeGenius contest I've been involved with now since late November has felt that way in some respect. I shot out of the gate in round one (not knowing what to expect) and was greeted with cheers from the sidelines and many people willing to take that baton and run a while when I would get tired. They rallied to get votes during round one and I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for this little book that spoke of a boy with autism and his desire to be a superhero in his brain. 

I was never certain if the final round would include public voting (as the publisher utilized judges when they did this last year), but once it was announced I was a finalist and the fully illustrated books would be open to the public again: we were off.

Endurance and stamina are greatly needed to get through any race. And that is no different when dealing with a three week challenge. You first have to let everyone know that voting in round one does not exclude them from voting again now. "But we've already done this" they say. And you explain their votes helped weed down 400 people to the final 13. You put on your promotional/marketing hat and think of different ways to get the word out to new people. Luckily (and I'm so aware of this), my book has a built in platform as autism affects many, many people. Only this time - the comments section is turned off on the voting board so you don't get to see what those voters are saying about the book. (Those very words helped push me along in round one.) By the second week, you are so tired of talking/begging/ start to wonder if all around you are completely hating every single time they see the words 'chicken' and 'boy' in your facebook status. The inspiration behind your book notices that everywhere he goes, people ask him to say "Bahcaaaaaah!" - and he does; each time. And you question if you are making it to week three.

But by that last week, something starts to happen. Your friends start to perk up as they too see the finish line. They believe in you and want you to win. They believe in the book and want to see it published. And you get a renewed strength that causes you to press on and ask people to read the book, vote and share the word with as many as possible.

I marvel at my friends during this time. I see who they are and so appreciate them giving of their time in the way they have. I am grateful for each newspaper and online website that runs an article about me and this story. Montclair Times - Hawthorne Gazette - BaristaKids - Dallas Observer - Runnin' Down A DreamMelissa Goodwin Blog  And I am most pleased that I've played a small (very small) part in bringing awareness to autism via kid's lit. Even if it's only been a few weeks of my time.

And that's when I know the race isn't done. My goal is to make this book available to many, many kids so they can share it with classmates to try and understand what goes on in the mind of a child with autism. At least what goes on with the one I personally know.

MeeGenius is helping to make that a reality if this book wins. And YOU all have helped (and continue) with your voting. It's not over. Please keep sharing and we can run through that finish line together, #TeamChickenBoy!!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Friends That Tell The Stories of Our Lives

4th Wall Theatre's THE STORY OF MY LIFE
Photo by: Tom Schopper
This past weekend I had the privilege of seeing an amazing production of a musical that had a very short life on Broadway. Luckily for audiences, it finds a home in regional theaters across the country and 4th Wall Theatre in NJ presented it for a one weekend run. The Story of My Life by Brian Hill & Neil Bartram is about friendship. The two person musical has one man thinking about the eulogy he is to give for his friend since childhood and starts an onset of memories of the two of them. The two actors were absolutely believable as lifelong friends. Jim Stanek who understudied Malcolm Gets on Broadway in the show and has toured the country doing it brought such beautiful 'life' to Alvin, while Matt Burns (who I've had the pleasure of both performing with and directing) movingly played the accomplished writer who was up to 'write' his biggest story yet in remembrance of his best friend.

The show touched me in so many ways. Yes, one of the guys was an author which I related to. But it also got me thinking about other areas of my life. What we're all here for. The purpose of 'it all'. Those people who have inspired me, lifted me up, encouraged me and who share history with me that others can't always understand. We all have many friends that come in and out of our lives, but think of those that have known you the longest - those you can recall playing childhood games with - that have seen you grow and change; and still love you (because of and in spite of those changes). That person who has been there through it all and can help recall the stories of your life like no one else can. When the character of Thomas sings of the butterfly, one can't help but think of the person that has told you "you can do it...go, fly...go for it!" 

Me & my BFF: Senior Prom '87
I met such a person when I moved from a small town to a large suburb of Dallas when I was in the 5th grade. She lived just blocks away. She read my first stories that I had ever written (and I, hers). We sang in the choir together and did plays in middle school. We attended dances, football games and major events all through high school. She was the person I turned to with so much personal information and the one I was told would not stay in my life after we went our separate ways to college. Thirty-two years after meeting her - she is still my dearest friend, the keeper of my stories, and the person I love to see the Jordan River or St. Catherine's Palace when we travel the globe with our significant others. I'm lucky to have the girl in the little blue dress still in my life and it's moments after seeing shows like The Story of My Life that I realize just how precious those friendships are.

Reach out to your best friend. Let them know how you feel. Life is too short and we never know when it will all be but a memory.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Guest Blog: Writing for Kids: Choice or Calling?

Today I am exchanging blogs with the wonderful children's book author Melissa Ann Goodwin, author of The Christmas Village. I wanted her on my blog because I believe the spirit of Christmas can be kept inside of us everyday (truthfully, I'd rather think of the love of Christmas instead of the little man with the bow & arrow this week). The story is really a fantasy adventure that uses the holiday as a backdrop. So be sure and  check it out after reading her post! Take it away, Melissa!

People often ask me why I decided to write for children. The truth is I don’t remember ever deciding such a thing.  I do remember thinking, as a child, that I wanted to write books like the ones I liked to read – books like The House at Pooh Corner, The Secret Garden and Charlotte’s Web. When I finally settled into writing at the ripe old age of 45, stories for children were what fell out of me. There wasn’t really a decision or choice, it’s just what happened.

What I’ve realized, though, is that my secret goal is to write children’s books that grown-ups will love too. For me, that starts with a rollicking good story. I want all the elements – excitement, mystery, suspense and a few good twists and turns. I want a setting that I can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. I want characters that feel like dear friends whom I’ll miss terribly when the story ends. I want humor, subtly-delivered life lessons, and a bit of wistfulness.

My first book, The Christmas Village, reflects just about everything that I loved about Christmas as a child, as well as the nostalgic sense of Christmas that I have as an adult. The idea came to me one night when I was looking at our own miniature village, spread out on cotton batting on the dining room table and twinkling in the dark. I started to wonder, Who lives in the blue house with the red roof and cupola? What song are the carolers singing? Who are the boarders in Ida’s boarding house, and what does Ida look like?

The little lighted villages look so pretty and perfect, feeding our fantasies of old-fashioned white Christmases featured in movies and songs. The idea of a sad little boy, looking at a perfect village like mine and wishing he could escape his troubles by disappearing into it began to emerge. I started to imagine why he was sad and to think of ways he might get himself there. Then the story just took off - to places I never imagined it would go when I first started thinking about it!

I’m thrilled when kids tell me, “I loved The Christmas Village because it was so exciting that I couldn’t stop reading.” But I’m just as tickled when adults say, “I loved that it gave me that old-fashioned feeling of Christmas that I remember as a child.”   When I hear those statements, I feel as though I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. Now, I’m working on a sequel, partly because so many people have said they’d like one, but mostly because I miss the village and my characters too. It’s called … no wait, I think I’ll keep that a secret a while longer!

Thanks for stopping in, Melissa to share with us! Please follow her on her blog and pick up your own copy of her book for that special "V-Day love" in your life. Surprise them with something a little different this February. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Breaking Down a Contest

It's happening again.

That overwhelming feeling of gratitude I have from working on the MeeGenius Author Challenge. Complete strangers writing to me about the book. Going to pages of people I don't know on Facebook and seeing my link. A friend on twitter telling me a friend of theirs with an autistic child posted my link on Facebook and told her friends to vote. And my OWN friends working tirelessly for me to help spread the word. 

Yes. Overwhelming and gracious are the words that come to mind.

I've always known I was competitive when I play games - but this doesn't feel like competition. It feels like it is a part of me that I'm meant to do in order to make more people aware of autism. Perhaps it's because of the subject matter that I feel so impassioned about it. I also feel such a camaraderie with certain other authors in the competition. I've read the books. Some of us have reached out to each other with support - even sharing ideas. (I know, I can't help it: it's part of my paying-it-forward mantra that I can't get away from.) But I know how important it is for each of them the same as it is for me. You read the back stories on these authors and it touches me. Tanya and her adoption of her child. Kelly raising her daughter to be sufficient to say "I can do it" even when we fall. Jennifer wanting so badly to be a children's author and can see this chance before us all...because we've gotten so far from the original 400 names in the contest.

Yes - gratitude doesn't begin to explain how I feel. And lucky to be in the company of these other people. And understanding of how much we all want to see our 'little book' succeed.

So with a week and a half left to go - I continue to wish them all well. I continue to be thankful for the support of so many people voting. I continue to ask everyone I pass "Have you voted for the children's book on autism through the perspective of that child?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

SMASH: The New Competition Show

I knew I couldn't let a blog posting go by where I didn't talk about the new NBC show SMASH. I'm not going to give things away that we haven't all seen in the numerous commercials. Let me go on record as saying as a theater person, I'm thrilled there is a scripted show about New York and all that entails in working on a musical. They use New York actors. They talk about what's going on in the industry. And Marc Shaiman has created some wonderful original tunes. It's funny that one of the plot lines is about a song 'leaking' on the internet and social media. That's exactly what they've done with this show. They've used every aspect of social media in getting this show out there before it even started. You could watch it online, on demand, EVERYWHERE before it premiered. (I'll admit: I watched it Saturday afternoon on demand.) 

I've been a writer of new musicals and I really appreciate the sentiment behind the show of creating something "new". (The irony is that Marilyn is now everywhere and not so new. Movies. TV. And several versions of musicals out well as on the horizon.) I was also in that business as a performer and hated the auditions, competing, and people sizing you up to see if they are better. 

I much prefer the world of writing where authors (for the most part) are not competing with you...but supporting you. And telling others to read your books. (Even some authors I'm up against in some categories for awards this spring. How amazing is that!?) And yet...the next two weeks of my life, I'm back in competition mode - in the middle of some sort of ‘American Idol-esque’ vote until you can't vote any more campaign to get my children's book published: complete with the video montage of the back story, major use of social media and technology to lead people to it, and good old-fashioned word of mouth.

It makes me wonder if we’ve become a society built around competition because of all of the reality shows. The creators of this show have returned to that premise in this show with “who will win the lead?” I'm eager to see where SMASH is going to head. From coming attractions, it seems as if it's concentrating on this one aspect. I do hope the fact that it is a scripted show means we'll also get great character driven moments so we can really begin to care for the people on the show. As long as it stays going in this direction and doesn't turn into America calling & voting, I think it'll be a great addition to TV. 

(Scratch that - just read there is a "Be On SMASH" contest starting.)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Guest Blog: Write Hook Packs a Punch

I'm excited to be exchanging blogs this week with a great writer and friend, Scott Morgan - who doesn't hold back. Scott was the first person I met on LinkedIn last year and we instantly started online communication discussing all things writing. I got to meet him face-to-face at a book expo in NYC (where I think I got more out of talking to him than the break-out sessions, but I digress). Check out Scott on his website. Writer, editor, and very interesting blogger! And grab a copy of one of his books from his bookstore. (Character Development... is a MUST for writers and his Short Stack is a great collection of stories.)

And now Scott has something to share that few are afraid to say. Take it away, Scott!

Every family has one person who makes everyone walk on eggshells. We all feel the tension in the room whenever he enters. And we all wish this person would pack up and move to Burma, where he could get a good shave in a nice tiger trap. 

And to this person, this entity making all of our lives less rewarding, what do we say?

Nothing. We just pretend everything's OK because it's easier than dealing with the butt-ugly truth that everyone knows but no one talks about.

So, I hear you ask, how does this relate at all to being an author? Simple: We all know something about marketing our work that no one actually wants to say out loud––Twitter doesn't work.

There. Don't you feel better? Or do you also need to hear this: Facebook doesn't work either.

OK, now you feel better. Or, wait. Do you need to hear this: Blogging doesn't work either.

Whoa! Wow, that took a lot out of you. You look dazed. OK, well, I promise I'm done with the here's-one-more-thing things. But now that someone has said it out loud, doesn't that feel better? To know that you're not alone in how you feel? I know I do.

The thing is, all these strategies that we as indie writers employ––the tweeting and friending and Goodreading (I don't know what else to call it) and blogging and giveaways––are already done. And by done, I mean, it's over. The very benefit of the Internet (that it's free and that anyone with access can put himself out there for the world to see) also is its biggest drawback. There are simply too many people doing the same things––mainly because those things work just often enough to keep the rest of us holding on.

This isn't just me talking. Studies (real ones) have shown that the absolute least effective methods people use to sell books are print ads, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs––in that order, from the bottom.

The reason, at least as far as I can see it, is simple: Indie authors are trying to convince other indie authors to buy their stuff. Now, if we all wrote bibles and took them to the same church, what would be the motivation for anyone but me to pray from mine?

If you've read my blog regularly (and a few have) you've noticed that I'm the type to give steps on how to do something. But here, I can't. Because I don't know what the answer is. The only useful thing I'm doing here is saying "There's an elephant in the room." Because there is. 

A lot of indie writers are frustrated and tired and exasperated with all the shiny promises and bottomless hype, and I'm one of them. And, contrary to popular belief, a lot of us do want to make money as writers. We do want to sell our books. We're not in it for the pure love of writing, because if we were, we wouldn't be trying to convince people that we have awesome things for them to read. We'd just write some things for ourselves and never tell a soul.

My approach from here on is to continue talking to people on Twitter, where I've met some fine peeps (including Greg, who so graciously is hosting this blog). I will continue my blog too. And I will continue writing, because it's what I do. But I won't expect these things to move product for me. I'll do them to stay in touch with a community of good, motivated people who want to be part of the world and share their creative voices.

And maybe for now, that's good enough.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chicken Boy: The Final Round

Gabe in his
"Bahcaaaaaah" shirt!
Four months ago I set off on a new path that I could never have grasped where it would take me. Submitting a children’s book about my godson with autism to the MeeGeniusAuthor Challenge started a whirlwind of excitement for me like I’ve never experienced. By the end of November, voting began with 400 manuscripts submitted and naturally I assumed the odds were against me.
I’m so pleased to say not only did we get over 2,000 votes (the most of any during December) – but the comments received by voters were amazing! I was overwhelmed by the joy it brought to me as it came to a close, and NOW - our book has been professionally edited. (It was wonderful to work with the editor – moving pages around, tightening the story.) It was illustrated by the amazing Dennis Culver which was a thrill to see the descriptions I had written down in the fall as a story board come to life on the page from his head. AND – it is one of 14 books remaining in the final round of voting!! (Yes…it seems to be Greg & the gals in this round as I’m the last guy standing.) And can we mention how smart MeeGenius is…hence their name…to make the super hero boy a little older so the book can be enjoyed by children of many ages and not just kindergarten?
So this is my plea to please help us make autism awareness in children’s books a reality and get this book published by MeeGenius. Click HERE to vote.

One minute to read the book, vote and share the link with friends…that’s all I’m asking for.

I’m aware that some people were confused in the fall during round one and thought that was all we had to do. I apologize for the confusion. That was to get the 400 manuscripts down to the final 14. The previous year's competition seemed to have judges in the finals round and we were not certain if the public would be voting or not this year. So here are few points to share:
1)      Voting for the finals last until February 21…we need people voting and sharing every day so we can climb up that Rankings list and get those votes!
2)     This is an eBook company. This is NOT to get the book in print (though trust me, if we win this competition we will do everything in our power to get the book in print as well so people can hold it in their hands)!
3)     The winning book not only gets published (and the author gets an advance) – but a school gets a library of eBooks. In this case, it’s Gabe’s school in Nutley, NJ. Radcliffe Elementary.
So I will try not to be a pest the next 20 days – but I really want to see this book get as many votes as possible. (Who am I kidding: we want to see it get MORE than it did before!) 

Thank you for your support. For all of you being a part of  #TeamChickenBoy and for going on this journey with me! It's the final stretch and we can do it!