Monday, January 28, 2013

They Don't Know You Exist

I can't explain how lightning strikes, and I don't mean the weather.  I've heard tales of a writer doing basically nothing besides publishing their book and then 6 weeks later it's a bestseller.  It's still the same thing--word of mouth WOM--but really fast.  The audience was exposed to a book and read it, liked it and told their friends. 

This is exactly how it works.  (Yes, that's Heather Locklear before she was arrested on the DUI)

I contacted a number of book bloggers this week and some were very excited to read my books.  Of course I was glad about that but it made me realize that with all the books out there, the possibility you will be struck by this Fame Lightning is about as possible as being struck by actual lightning.

The problem as I see it on the horizon is that this too, like freebies, will lose its effectiveness.  There will be so many writers asking for reviews and so many horrid books turning reviewers off that it will become increasingly difficult to get reviews or placement.
At that point probably the only way will be by paying a person to book tour you.  They will have a circle of bloggers who relies on them for a certain level of quality and the publicist will be able to rely on them to review the book, conduct the interview or do the promo.

Since everything happens now with increasing speed I'm guessing that in a year it will be almost impossible to get to bloggers with a track record as a newbie.

Start now if you haven't already.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Promotion

When I was published in the physical world they did everything for me.  It was great.  Did you know they have a publicity team in every publishing house at the ready to get the word out on your book?  Did you know they work extra hard to get your book into stores?  Did you know they set up tours for you?

Did you know they do this if you are Stephen King but if you are me they do NOTHING?
You had to do everything just like now as an indie author.  They couldn't care less about midlist authors and that is the sad truth.  Still is the sad truth.

There were a few years where there were more readers than ebooks and everything was peachy and now we're out of that dreamyworld and into virtual reality.  Writers have to find ways to promo their work.  Let's not talk about outliers.  You can't duplicate whatever makes an outlier an outlier.

What does this take?  Work.  Specifically, you will either have to do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you.  You need to do interviews, guest posts, giveaways and on the rare occasion find someone who will review your book.   Your life will become one long book tour.  This is true.  I'm sorry.

I try to do one promo thing a day whether it's find a blog who wants to host an interview or a post or what I did over the last few days and that was finding bling I could afford for giveaways.

Why isn't it enough to give away a free copy?  Because the people who gave away $200 Amazon gift cards spoiled it for the rest of us.

The difference between you asking bloggers for a review and the person you pay to ask them for a review is time.  If you ask it'll take two months or more for them to get through the To Be Read stack they already have.  If it's a tour arranger asking, it seems to happen more rapidly.  Either way you should be working on your own trying to make those connections and get your book on blogs.

Does it help?  It doesn't hurt and there's not a lot of other things to do right now.  I know a writer who is very committed to promotion and the hard work has paid off.  She's the kind of person who doesn't have the discouragement gene.

Get out there and push that book.

Paris Forever--Trey Ratcliff

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nikon Girl

I was going to major in art at college.  The drawback to that was that I really can't draw.
I'm plenty artistic but the drawing thing, no.  So after a couple weeks I decided to go into photography which would meld with the writing and I could be a photojournalist.  There was a great tradition of that.  Unfortunately more in movies than real life.  But it was possible so I said yes.

My father had a Leica but the professor insisted on a medium format camera for the first year or something, so I got whatever it was, a Mamiya?  But it only took 1 semester and I got a Nikon F.  That was a really good camera and I think you can pick them up now for about 1/10th of what we paid for the body and telephoto.  I think it was a 300 mm lens.

Some years later I was at a combined training event--it was entirely a nightmare, so bad I don't even want to go into it--and somehow the camera dropped.  I'm sure Nikon could have fixed it but within a couple hours it was stolen.  I was devastated.  I lost my camera, I was stuck with the world's worst boyfriend who had two of the brattiest kids on the planet and then the truck broke down in Yonkers on a Sunday evening.  Wow.  How can things get worse?

Yes, I later found out that things can get very much worse, but that night will live on in the records as one of the worst.

I got a less expensive model as a replacement.  For some reason every time I picked it up the battery was dead.  It had one of those little disk things.  The light meter always seemed wrong.  I was too busy in television to bother, when I wasn't in the studio, I was in the car commuting.  I stopped being a photographer and was just a writer.

Then digital came in and I ignored it.  I was very busy.  I got a cheap Epson to use to sell stuff on ebay.  You don't talk about quality except can you see the objet you're trying to sell.

Everything went like that until I got a contract to do The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting Projects.  I thought the job was to...well I thought it was what they TOLD me it was.  Come up with 20 projects and some variations.  And you've got 10 weeks.  Okay, pressing it but I'll do it.  Then I read the contract and someone is supposed to provide photos for all these projects and oh by the way it's not 20 it's 100.

In a crisis--which that was--you revert to what you know best so I knew I had to get a Nikon, whatever the budget would allow because I had to pay for EVERYTHING out of my advance (here's some advice, don't do one of these books unless you must or love being under horrible pressure).  So I got a D70 and never understood it.  I couldn't understand the manual.  I couldn't find anyone who could explain it to me.  But apparently I was doing okay because I shot all the photos for the book and that's what was published.

I don't remember why I got the D7000 other than I hated the D70 because I didn't know it.  The manual was better and there was a lot more help available on the internet and I got Photoshop.  Everything fell together.  I worked hard with it and with Photoshop.

And then I got the D600 which is a fantastic camera.  But the D7000 is great, too.  And when I stumble upon what's left over from the D70, they aren't bad.  A little tweak, some sharpening and they're very acceptable. 

Digital cameras aren't like film cameras which you expected to have for a lifetime.  Digital is semi-disposable.  You expect to turn it in for the new model in 2 years.  Luckily all Nikon lenses work on all their cameras because if you had to get new glass every 2 years, you'd better be rich.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Images in Digital Books

Still not perfected.  Two years ago it was much more difficult, Amazon needed the file in html, separate images and zipped.  Now it's possible to upload a doc file (just like BN always took) and it's fine.

I just received an email from a reader saying she couldn't see the images contained in Flash of Light in her reader.

I went to my Kindle Fire and it's fine for me.  (Small but fine)  She didn't say what reader she has.  

I did a magazine trial--impossible to read full page because it was designed for a large physical magazine.  To read it in a Fire meant lots of scrolling and moving the page around.  Big hassle.  Maybe it works on an iPad.

So is it worthwhile to include images?  Only if you accept that not all your readers will be able to see them.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Bling Boing

I just saw a raffle for a giveaway.  Sterling silver necklace that looks to be about 4 engraved pages of the book being given away.  Value--supposedly $200.

First writers were forced to chase publishers.  Then the business changed and there were too many writers for publishers to deal with so agents were basically invented.  Writers chased agents.  Now the business has changed.  Two years ago it was great.  Readers needed writers.  Today there are so many books and so many writers, readers are at a premium and writers are chasing them waving gift cards and bracelets.

Wow.  This is wrong on so many levels, I can hardly sort through it.  But we don't deal with life how it should be we deal with it how it is. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

To Bling or Not To Bling

That is the question.
Whether it is nobler, and wiser, to give away stuff
in order for potential readers to show up
Or is it simply buying eyes who will clean up and move on,
Alas, Horatio, I don't have a clue on it.

I didn't know writers were giving away trinkets and what-all in order to...what, increase customer enthusiasm?  Traffic?  But I have been informed this has been going on for a long time, besides the bookmarks which are obsolete now, right?  It's not enough to give away free copies of your book, now you have to give away gift cards, bracelets, and even Kindles.

I used to make the cutest little vests for a tack shop in Wilton, CT.  I crocheted an applique of their logo, a horse, of course--I think I still have one in my trunk--so I'm no stranger to making stuff.

It was far too late to do anything for the current Bad Apple Tour but other events are coming up so I used the remainder of yarn from a vest I made myself a couple years ago and some leftover yarn from that Complete Idiots book I did.

I can't get past the feeling--is this serious?  What next?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Writing Prime Directive

This doesn't apply to all writers, perhaps, but I think it applies to all members of The Writers Guild.

I don't make changes unless I get paid to do so.  And I mean more than 35 cents.  About 1000X that would be in the parking lot of the ballpark.

This is what I learned and here's a good, short, example of it.  Before digital publishing was what it is now, and paper was the only game in town, I was trying to sell Nothing Serious (titled Disconnected then).  I sent it to an agent.  She said it started too fast.  I sent it to a former editor at Berkley and she said it started too slow.

I can't make that change.  I don't know what that is.  And I'm not going to bother trying until I'm under contract and you're paying me.  They didn't pay me so it never got changed.  No one's complained since.

On the internet everyone gets to have and opinion and broadcast it.

As with the agents and editors and their conflicting opinions, it's not worth paying much attention to that kind of random input.

The only time I change anything without a paycheck is when I believe in it.  Otherwise you become a windsock.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Find A Niche and Fill It

If you are not remarkable in style and content, downloaders will graze upon you momentarily then move on.  I think.

Sometimes someone comes up  with the perfect thing for the time.  EL James did that with 50 Shades of Grey.  Rowling did it with Harry Potter.  Who started the vampire craze was it Twilight or Anne Rice?  They tap into something no one knew they wanted and are wildly successful.

You can't plan for that.  You can try but I'm not aware of anyone who did this mechanically.  These people wrote what they wanted and then the audience showed up.

Another way you can set yourself apart from the rest is by being talented.
We can't all be remarkably talented.

We can be skilled but that's work.  It takes time.  It also takes having the kind of mind that can conceive of improving and growing.  Some people don't have that ability or thought process.  They can be told how to improve but their minds can't work that out.

So now that we have millions of books available, how do we set ourselves apart from the masses? 

What do we have to offer that readers might want.  Some people want to read the same book over and over again but with slightly different characters and situations.  Other people might call this predictable.  The flip side would be to call it comforting. 

Find out what you can do then do that to the best of your ability.  Try to determine what your weaknesses are and strengthen them.

This could be called branding yourself.  If a reader wants to read a comforting book that isn't challenging, do that.  Be the person who becomes known for that.  Promo that. 

If you're going to write about quirky characters in unpredictable situations, be that.  Be the go-to-guy for that. 

Figure out where you heart is and be that.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year New Photoshop Hints

Some things can drive you nuts.  I don't want the hard way to do things, most of the time, I just want to get close.

Matte finish in Photoshop.  I don't see free actions for this but I see super super expensive actions--and I'm talking about $35!

What are we going to do about this?  I'm going to give you the shortcut. 

This was tweaked but that's not what this is about.  We just want matte.

Doesn't that satisfy you?  It works for me on this.  Yes, you can go take the original and throw a slight Gaussian blur on it.

What I did was make a image of a yellow that I liked, saved it.  Then placed it on top of the original and clicked the blending mode SOFT LIGHT.  That's it.  You can lighten the effect or not.  Or don't use the blending mode and just reduce the NORMAL mode's opacity.

Happy New Year's Gift.  Here's the texture I used.  Sure I could have put some actual texture on it but I didn't.  Feel free to do so.