Category Archives: Marketing

A Single Spark

I set a goal of writing every day with the help of "The Writers Devotional" by Amy Peters. First week in, and I skipped Thursday and Friday. I'm not off to a good start.

However, after reading Friday's focus on biography and Saturday's focus on what books to read, they tie together well enough to combine them into a single entry.

Why do you write? Is it to entertain with a great story, to improve a person's life with a self-help book, or perhaps encourage people to improve their life through fiction?

Another question (and if you don't write for others), what's the one book that changed you the most?

Friday's biography focused on George Orwell who wrote Animal Farm and 1984.

Aside, and a bit of useless trivia: George Orwell came up with the title 1984 not necessarily because he was prescient, but merely switched the year of when he wrote it in 1948.

His books serve as cautionary tales when governments run amok that still today have a wide readership. They are nearly timeless, and show that power will always corrupt no matter how we try to guard against it — and always will at the expense of entire populations.

Friday's focus on what book to read was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. It was about the dangers of the insecticide DDT. Because of her book, the chemical was banned.

Neither author expected to see how large of an impact their words would have. Unfortunately for Orwell, he never saw how much of an impact. To quote Carson, "It would be unrealistic to believe that one book could bring about a complete change."

Yet that's what so many writers want, and need. Writing is daring to pour our heart and soul on the page. It is an act of bravery to let others read our writing, because doing so we risk people stomping our soul into slippery red goo when it's rejected.

My first novel I wrote out of discontent. Not like Orwell with his overarching fear of where society is headed, or the more immediate dangers of scientific or technological advancements like Carson. My frustration stemmed from science fiction leaving out — or being outright hostile to — the existence of God, and Christian fiction focused almost solely on romance with little to no fantasy and science fiction.

I'm still having problems finding an agent/publisher for that novel, because the Christian publishing market is still slow to accept science fiction of my variety, and most of the mainstream science fiction market doesn't want anything to do with religion. Because of that, I'm more focused on finding an agent for my mainstream science fiction novel.

I'm not out of options, though. I can still self-publish my first novel, but I'm not as yet willing to put in the work (and money) required for it to succeed. I'm lazy that way. Does that mean I don't believe in my story as much as Orwell or Carson? That's a good question that will require some serious thought.

More questions that need answering: How much do I want my words to impact my readers, and how important is that to me? What — if anything — am I willing to sacrifice to see it through?

"In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act." — George Orwell.

"Great storms announce themselves with a single breeze, and a single random spark can ignite the fires of rebellion." – Bishop from the movie Ladyhawke

*Sigh* Rejected Again

I just received this little email:

Andra,

Thank you for offering your story to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere.

That makes Rejection Number Two for my story “Ashella’s Heart.”

At this point, I don’t know if I have the energy to find another magazine to submit it to. Sure, I have access to significant lists of magazines that accept stories like mine, but the problem comes with the necessity of reading a copy or two of each one to find out if it’s really a good fit, or not. That takes a lot of time. Sure, I could submit it to every science fiction/fantasy magazine out there without reading any of it, but that seems too . . . impersonal, I guess. Not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m not motivated enough to find it.

So, yeah, I’m feeling a little maudlin about the whole thing.

Part of it is due to spending the last three days looking for agents for my sci-fi novel. I found over a dozen that look promising, and that’s a good thing. Better to have too many choices than not enough. All I need to do is structure and personalize my query letter and synopsis according to each one’s submission requirements – starting with the agents that I like best and work my way down from there.

The good news is, I at least I didn’t have to wait until my birthday to find out the magazine thought my story sucked (kidding a bit there. My story didn’t necessarily suck. Most likely they’re looking for something different).

I just wish I could better predict what magazine/publisher/agent will fit with what I write. It’s so damned unpredictable in that the only way to discover it is to send it out there to be rejected. I’d like to think I have a thick enough skin, but on days like today – apparently – it’s not thick enough.

Yay! I’m Rejected!

One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:

Dear Andra,

Thank you for submitting “Ashella’s Heart” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine.

I’m a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it’s a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I’ve read so far have been science fiction. I don’t want to waste time submitting to a magazine that’ll reject it out of hand because I didn’t get the genre right.

EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, “Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?”

I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*.

Rolling in Poison Ivy

When a writer or author follows me on Twitter, I usually follow them back.

When I do I inevitably get a private message stating, “Thanks for the follow. Be sure to check out my book . . .”

It’s a marketing thing, I get it, and I try not to allow cynicism to take over in that they only followed me in the hopes of getting a sale. Have I purchased a book from a Twitter message?

Once.

And I did so because the author of whom I returned the follow messaged me this:

“I’d roll around in poison ivy to get you to read the free sample of my book . . .”

How could I not turn down such an offer?

At $0.99, I decided to buy the book before I even read the sample. I figured at that low cost, I couldn’t lose either way.

“The Scattered and The Dead Book 0.5” reads like a long prologue (as if the 0.5 didn’t give it away).

With some books, less is more, and the authors Tim McBain and L.T. Vargas proved that with this 162 page book.

“All my friends are dead. Everyone I’ve ever cared about is dead.”

Loneliness drives an introvert to write a letter to the girl in the apartment across the hall. He is anxious. Reclusive. Desperate for a friend. The apocalypse interrupts this attempt at human contact.

Now he watches out the window as the world gets gut to pieces by plague and riots. Buildings burn. Pedestrians vomit blood.

Soon bodies line the streets. Rumors of zombies spread. And then the power goes out.

Getting to know someone could be harder than he thought, let alone surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

He might even have to leave the apartment.

The entire book is Decker’s (the main, and really, the only character) letter to the girl across the hallway. In it he describes everything he does and everything he sees out the window before, during and after the apocalypse starts.

On the surface it might sound boring. Where’s the action and interaction between characters If most of the book takes place in a single apartment through the mind of one person? Unless you count the girl, but we don’t meet her; we only know her through the main character and his imaginings of her. The authors don’t reveal how the apocalypse starts, but I don’t care. It’s not relevant to the story; what matters is how Decker responds to the challenges before him.

In order for a writer to build a character who’s believable and sympathetic, the writer must love that character — even if he/she is the antagonist. The love the authors have for Decker is obvious from the first page. He’s not only believable, but I could see a lot of myself in him. I felt as though he was talking and writing the letter to me. That, there, proves how solid the writing is.

The writing is smooth and direct, and I didn’t find a single error. The authors give just enough detail to immerse us into Decker’s mind and his world, but not so much it gets bogged down. I read the entire book in less than two days, and I honestly didn’t want it to end. Luckily Book 1 is out, so I can keep going.

I won’t offer to roll in poison ivy to get you to read it, but I recommend you check out the book nonetheless.

You can find out more here: http://www.amazon.com/Scattered-Dead-Book-0-5/dp/1523769025/

10,000 Ways

One of my favorite quotes is by Thomas Edison when he talked about creating a light bulb:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

With my first rejection letter out of the way, I can now say I know one way that won’t work.

But I am impatient. Always have been.

I buy a lot of books — too many of which I haven’t read — on subjects ranging from basic economics to warfare.

They collect dust, because for some reason I keep thinking that the mere presence of a book on my shelf means I can learn the subject, as if I can absorb it through osmosis. It’s a sad realization that I don’t necessarily want to learn new things; I want to know them without having to work to get there.

Unfortunately for me, to find an agent who’ll hopefully find me a publisher requires not only patience, but a lot of studying and research. I have to study each prospective agent carefully to see if they will not only be a good fit for representing my book, but also a good fit for me personally. I will, after all, be working with said agent — for years if everything goes right.

I must be like Thomas Edison, and continue to write, to pursue, and figure just the right combination for success, even if it means learning 10,000 ways how not to do it.

To quoth Mr. Edison again:

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.

God willing, it won’t take me literally 10,000 tries. I’ll settle for 12. Okay maybe 20. 50?

What I Miss — And Don’t Miss — About Facebook

November 30, 2015 was my official last day of spending time on Facebook.

After over two months of freedom from that site, I found there are both advantages and disadvantages to doing so.

First the disadvantages (because I want to end this entry on a positive note):

  • Daily happenings. I have little to no idea what my friends and family who don’t live nearby are up to. I’m way out of the loop, and feel a bit left out when people talk about the latest happening, or viral meme or video on Facebook.
  • No more writing ideas. At least as far as non-fiction is concerned. Facebook provided a lot of fodder for me to comment on, and inspired many a blog entry. It’s part of the reason I’ve posted fewer entries here since then. But only partly. The other reason is a big positive that outweighs this negative.
  • People miss me. More than one person has expressed how much they miss my updates — some of whom I see fairly often. I guess they like my stuff.

 

The advantages:

  • Writing and more writing. While I’m empty of ideas for inspirational blog entries, I have completed two novels, and am now working on completing a third. Since December 1, I have written over 110,000 words.
  • Reading. I have more books in the last two-and-a-half months than I’ve read the previous year, which further inspires me to keep writing. Which reminds me. I need to start posting reviews of said books . . .
  • No more — at least way less — anger and frustration with the constant flow of memes and angry proselytizing with regard to politics and religion.
  • No more pissing people off with my own opinionated opinions with regard to politics and religion.

 

At the end of the day, while I miss out on a lot, what I’ve gained is far more important. I may actually get a book published out of it. That’s the hope anyway.

Once I finish this third novel, I will have time to write and send query letters to agents (I’m not looking forward to it, but it’s got to be done. Maybe that’ll be the subject of my next entry . . .).

Since this blog is supposed to be about my writing journey, I will keep you apprised.

Creating a (Positive) Online Presence

Along with researching agents and publishers, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a better online presence.

The problem is, how without sounding like some annoying salesman?

From what I’ve read, the commonest advice is to offer something potential readers want and will make them keep coming back.

Okay. What do I have to offer?

It has to be free to start. It could be humor (that one’s easy. My son and husband are always coming up with something). Information and advice is another. There it gets wrinkly. Everything I know and learned has come from someone else. The trick will be to put my own unique spin on it and make it entertaining as well as informative. Otherwise all I’ll be doing is adding external links to every blog entry.

I should care about my readers, and respond in a timely manner to any comments or questions they might have. One way to do that is see myself not as a writer, but as a reader. What do I look for in writer websites/blogs? What encourages me to keep coming back? How can I emulate them, again without being repetitive or plagiaristic?

Yes, I want to sell my writing, but that should the end result of an online presence, not the foremost.

After all, if a reader enjoys my blog, my website, Facebook page and Twitter tweets, then they’ll naturally want to read my books.

The mindset has to be thus: It’s not about me or my books, per se, but about pleasing my readers.

One thing that sucks about writing and desiring to publish is that my writing succeeds or fails based solely on the opinion of others. That said it’s something I chose (sort of) and knew going in, so I really shouldn’t complain.

So far I have several ideas:

  1. Book reviews. I’ve wanted to do more of these, and I could certainly use the practice. That I read a lot makes this fairly easy. It’ll also help garner more readers, because if they’re well-written enough, the authors may link the review on their own websites.
  2. Humor pieces. There’s a blog I read (Literary Agent Steve Laube) and every Friday he writes an entry called “Fun Fridays”. He’ll either add a humorous Youtube video, or fun facts. For me, I’ll likely dedicate Mondays, because who couldn’t use a little laughter on Monday?
  3. Continuing my publication journey. I’ve written a few entries in an older blog dedicated to the pitfalls of pursuing publication, and received some very good responses to it (One even went so far as comparing me to Erma Bombeck. Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are). Apparently I’m fairly humorous when describing rejections. Good, because I have a feeling there will be a lot more of those.
  4. Faith. Seeking publication is a journey of faith. I’ve learned more about God and seen my faith grow ever since I decided to pursue it. There were a lot of bumps and bruises from falling on my face, but I learned more from those failures than I ever will from my successes. Perhaps others can learn from them as well – without the bruises. And laugh at my obvious ineptitude.
  5. Write more. One entry a month simply won’t cut it (my average of late). People’s time is short and precious, and if I’m not consistent – no matter how good the entries are – they will lose interest.

Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see me write or add to my website? As an incentive, I’ll send you some free stuff.  I’m thinking some pens and bookmarks, or a free critique of the first five pages of a novel, short story or article. Your choice.