Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Christmas Gift to You

The other day, I was thinking about an interview of Stephen King I saw many years ago. He said something along the lines of “I used to tell interviewers I write every day except Christmas and my birthday. But that was a lie. I write on Christmas and my birthday, too.”

I can’t say I write as regularly as he does. He’s probably stopped writing more novels than I’ve even started to write. But I can say that I think about writing every day, including Christmas and my birthday. I turn scenes over in my mind, imagine characters in new situations, mull over what people on the train do when they’re not commuting, and create new people out of nothing or out of a hodgepodge of folks I’ve met.

That’s not writing per se, but it’s part of the process we all use as writers. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter doesn’t matter; we all must allow our minds to play.

As Christmas arrives, I’d like to give you all a gift. It’s not big, so feel free to pop it in a pocket and use at your leisure. I didn’t wrap it; the gift is the permission to imagine at any time of day. Whether you’re at work or driving or taking a shower or even asleep, you have permission to imagine. Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t give me anything, because you’re wrong about that. You’ve given me increased confidence. I really appreciated the encouragement I got from the comment you wrote months ago. I loved the funny remark you posted on Facebook because it got me thinking about something in a new way. And I thank you so much for the feedback you offered on my story. 

And here’s another gift: my promise to pass along the same gifts you’ve given me to other writers.

Thank you and Merry Christmas, everyone, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Might that be worth something to you, Laddy?

I'm a bit of a Star Trek geek, and I also am involved in a Scottish organization, so Mr. Montgomery Scott pops into my radar often. He did so again today and I was reminded of an old blog post I did for From The Write Angle, so I've decided to revive it here. 

What sells you when you decide to buy a book? Perhaps you were drawn by the cover art. Did the title catch your eye first? Was it a blurb on the back? You may have read a review and decided long before you ruffled the pages that this was the next item for your to-be-read pile.

As an author, all these are valuable tools to employ. Some are harder to come by. Not everyone is going to see their book reviewed by the New York Times. For self-published authors, a mention there might happen only if the book becomes a surprise hit and warrants a news story. To be sure, that’s quite valuable in itself, but again not a likely outcome.

Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are something all of us should be seeking for our books. But even these might be hit or miss. To be sure, it’s nice when people indicate a book is now on their “Want to read” list, but it’s more significant when “AvidReader123” writes a three paragraph review of glowing praise, especially if Avid has written half a ton of other reviews that people found helpful.

Let’s go back to the blurb. These are certainly nice to have. And for the unknown writer, they can be more than just nice. Imagine how helpful it would be if your publisher got Stephen King to blurb your debut psychological thriller. That could certainly translate into sales. It could even generate buzz. 

But blurbs from brand name authors are awfully tough to get, too. Agents know to protect their authors from blurbing too often. I know writers who are kept on a strict one-blurb-a-year diet.

Ok, so Stephen King won’t blurb your book and neither will his son Joe Hill. But what if one of those guys tweeted your book’s debut? Might that be worth something to you? What if George Takei shared mention of your novel on Facebook? Think his followers might take notice? Honestly, I think those might be more valuable than a blurb these days.

Of course, such electronic real estate is also hard to come by. Heck, finding a twenty dollar bill on the ground might be more common. But it still might be easier to get a tweet or retweet from one of your writing friends than a blurb from an established author with an audience. Might that be worth something to you?

Think of your own social media habits. Don’t you share things you found interesting? You’re writers: what are you reading? That’s a form of endorsement in itself. If you tweet out what you’re reading, some of your followers might check it out, too. Perhaps you’d enjoy sharing a bevy of your favorite covers on Instagram.

The key is having a well-stocked toolbox. Some tools are sharper than others, some cost more or have limited use. But assess what each one can do for you -- and for others. In the end, you get back what you give.