Saturday, April 27, 2019

Selling Books

Some writers think that once they’ve gotten their book published, their job is done, and it’s time to sit back and watch the sales roll in. They believe it’s the publisher’s job, or the agent’s job, to sell the book. Having a career as a writer (which is very difficult to pull off) means 20% writing, and 80% promotion. Truth is, if you want the book to sell, you must get out there and show people what you’ve got. The public, in general, has a very short memory. If you’re not putting your book in front of them on a regular basis, they’re going to forget you. That’s why you still see ads for huge companies like Verizon, Uber, and Progressive. They’re all successful companies in part because they don’t let you forget them. They also offer something you need or want.

Everyone and their dog thinks they can write a book. There’s a big difference between writing a book and telling a great story. My father was a journalist. He wrote for newspapers, and then for the federal government. All non-fiction. He wanted to write novels, so sat down one day and wrote one. Months later, he tried to get it published, and no one wanted it. He found a company that would help him publish and sent his manuscript to them. They read it and said he wrote like a journalist. The story required a lot of revisions. Instead, he gave up. After he passed away, I found the manuscript and attempted to read it. My father never knew I’d gotten published. He struggled with it for a long time and never got anywhere. My first book was published in hardback four years after I started writing again. I wasn’t really close to my father, but didn’t have the heart to tell him. Right or wrong, I just couldn’t do it.

Anyway, his book was very difficult to read. I got through one page before giving up. The story wasn’t engaging and the characters weren’t interesting.

Self publishing seems like a great solution when no one else seems interested. It definitely can be, but at the same time, you need to be sure that what you’ve written is actually good. You do this through feedback and reviews. I know people who’ve self-published and actually launched real careers that way. It is possible.

So let’s say you finally got your book out there. Whether you found a publisher, or you did it yourself, the next step is telling people about it. I’ve taken out multiple ads for ridiculous amounts of money only to have nothing happen. The key to successful promotion is repetition. Get out there, stay out there, and be patient. Nothing happens right away.

To find readers, go to bookstores, conventions, and talk about your book. Take out ads online, get t-shirts made with the cover of your book. See if you can arrange for a book signing. Yes, it can easily mean you’re sitting there alone, feeling like a miserable failure, and wanting to just chuck it all. Don’t. Be patient. Look for new ways to get the word out about your book.

Most importantly, keep going. Believe in your story.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Where Do You Get Your Stories?

I've been to cons where readers will ask me where I get my stories. My inner Sarcastic Asshole always wants to say, "Why, The Plot Store, of course. Isn't that where all writers go for stories?" I don't say that, ever. I just think it.

The truth is, maybe Shakespeare told original stories, but that was long ago, and people have told millions of stories since then. We're just retelling our version of the same story over and over again.

I've read articles that suggest there are 7 basic plots. Some say there are 36. My feeling, for what that's worth, is that there are 3. In no particular order:

1. The monster: a guy walks into town, kills a bunch of people, then everyone freaks out, but then they rally together, fight the monster (the guy), kill it, and then all is well again. This is basically the plot of every monster movie ever made.

2. The journey. Our [hero, heroine] might be looking for revenge, or treasure, or just a good time. No matter the reason, [he, she] gets into [his, her] [car, horse, spaceship, time travel machine] and races off to get what [he's, she's] looking for. [He, she] usually runs into a lot of trouble along the way and it nearly costs [him, her] [his, her] life. That's the black moment in the story where it seems like all is lost. But then [he, she] figures out how to save the [day, girl, guy, treasure, his honor], does it, and all is well again. Only sometimes it's not. Sometimes [he, she] returns battered and broken, and that's good enough for now.

3. The romance. Guy meets [guy, girl, alien, android]. They get to know each other, make mistakes, cry, break up, get back together, and then all is well. Sometimes.

There is a Wikipedia entry by Christopher Booker that says there are 7 plots. See the article here.

According to Booker, the plots are as follows:

1. Overcoming the Monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
5. Comedy
6. Tragedy
7. Rebirth

My feeling is that several of these plots can be boiled down further. A rags-to-riches story could be a quest or a voyage-and-return. For the record, I think quest and voyage-and-return are pretty much the same. A comedy or tragedy could be a romance, and rebirth could be part of a quest or a voyage-and-return.  But I say that by themselves, comedies or tragedies are not plots, but genres. Your quest or voyage-and-return could be either a comedy or a tragedy.

However many plots you decide there actually are, it should be reasonably clear that there aren't any new ones. All you can do is put your own spin on a story that's already been out there for decades.  This makes your job as a writer a little bit easier. You don't need to go to The Plot Store, just pick a story you like and figure out how to make it yours.

This article is also published at Sassy Girls.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Non-Fiction Articles and the Art of Encouragement

I occasionally write non-fiction articles. I've done a few for Scripted and some for Sassy Girls Book Expo. Here's a link to my page at Sassy Girls.

I like to write about the experience of being a writer, telling stories, promotion, all that. The point is to provide encouragement for new writers. It's a hard job. Sometimes it's just nice to know that someone else understands that.

Just before my divorce, way back when, I went to the Romance Writers of America yearly conference. It was informative, but pretty much a disaster for me.

While I was there, three ladies came up to me and started hassling me about the tag line I was using for my stories. I'm, like, holy shit, did I just go back in time to high school? These were grown women, hassling me for God knew what reason. I don't know if the point was to start a fist fight (now that would've been fun), embarrass me into slinking back into my room, or what. To this day, I have no clue. I remember them hassling me but not how it ended. Knowing me, I probably just looked bored and walked away. Too bad, though, that the fist fight didn't happen.

My point in telling this story is that writers hassling other writers is just bad form. It's stupid and petty and oh-so-high-school. Have we not evolved from that time? Seriously? We should be happy for someone else's success and have the inner strength to tell them so. Why? Why not?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Blogging

I've blogged on and off (mostly off) for the last sixteen years or so. I end up getting busy with other things, and blogging ends up to be the first thing to get left behind. I will try to keep going. I have some blog posts archived from before, so will get those posted as time permits.

I'm currently rewriting my first novel, titled The Stone of Ashka. It's about an immortal warrior who must prevent the otherworldly Twelve from finding and using the powerful and deadly Stone to forge a new world order. Intrigued? Me too. Exactly who or what is the Twelve and why is the Stone powerful and deadly. Check out my site for more info. I have chapter excerpts, games, and character profiles there as well.

Okay, so that's the extended elevator speech. On to other stuff.

My stories are about people with a dark side. Everyone has one, whether they want to admit or not...or maybe they don't know how dark they really are. It's fascinating, and all based on real psychological issues. I'm not a psychologist, but how the mind works and deals with the world (or doesn't) never ceases to amaze me.

Pretty much everything I write is fantasy. I strive to make my worlds as real as possible, with real, plausible solutions, so you might think, well, maybe that could happen. It really can't, but I want it to seem like it could.