Monthly Archives: November 2011

Have a Cup of Klah

klahFor those of you who are Anne McCaffrey fans, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while, and what better time than in memory of a wonderful woman and in time for the holidays.

 

Ms. McCaffrey created a fabulous drink in her Dragonriders of Pern series called klah, a hot chocolate-type drink with a woodsy, spicy flavor and a caffeine kick. Her book A Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern has a great detailed recipe for the drink that I’ve made before (and had great response to) but I’m lazy-I mean, I’m busy. Busy with so many things that I just don’t have time to mix instant coffee, cocoa powder, nutmeg, cinnamon… Instead, I discovered this when I ran out of coffee creamer!

 

1 packet of hot chocolate mix

1 cup brewed coffee (or already-made instant coffee)

a few dashes of cinnamon

 

Voila! You have your own home-made klah! There you go, Pern fans. (And, for that matter, Starbucks fanatics who don’t have $20 to pay for coffee.)

 

Thank you, Anne, for such a wonderful drink! I hope I can do it honor.

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“In Your Face”

To follow up yesterday’s post (and to kill time as I sit with my sleeping child in the car), I’d like to follow it up with something that is near and dear to my heart: HOW we as artists promote ourselves.

Now, let me define artists for you, since I’m sure most of you wouldn’t place yourself in that category. An artist, for all intents and purposes of this blog, is someone who crafts a piece, attempts to sell it, and is for the vast majority of the time rarely rolling in riches. I am an artist with words. Perhaps you’re an artist with paint or with video media or with music. We’re all artists.

Now then, my dears, there are two ways you can promote your work: the “in your face” method or the “face time” method. I can already hear your snorts of derision. “But Stevie, I would never get up in the faces of my people!” Right… Let me also point out that I’ve been both a salesman (saleswoman, whatever) and a daycare teacher. They both boil down to essentially the same thing, just like any job: getting the customer to buy what you’re selling. I happen to be selling a book, so I’ll use that as my example. And, I prefer the “face time” method.

But first let me elaborate on the “in your face” method. I’m sure you’ve seen this before. How many times have you received chain mail/texts/statuses? Not online? (Shameful. How are you reading this? Move back two spaces and re-read the previous post.) Have you ever received junk snail mail? Of course you have. How did you feel? Uplifted? Appreciated? Valued? No, you probably felt like another nameless invisible person on a giant mailing list who got saddled with a bunch of deals you could care less about. Just because I live in Unnamed City, Texas does not mean I care what the Mexican meat market is selling. I can’t read half of it anyways. I just don’t care. Lots of artists choose this same method of advertising their work, hoping one or two out of every ten will bite. I used to do it, too, so remember: while I’m pointing at you, three more point back at me. Twitter now-a-days is full of artists, particularly authors, posting sentences of their work and #kindle#amazon#99cents#readitcuzyouknowyouwantto. Nope, pretty sure I’d have clicked on your last five tweets on the exact same thing if I wanted to read it. On top of that, I as a customer feel completely neglected. Mass promoting like that turns me from an individual into a number. I’m the 26th view on your website today. I’m the 39th buyer of your whatever. I’m not “Jane” who has read every single one of your books. I’m #39. It is impersonal. And because of that, you WILL not get the readers you are looking for. You’ll get all the other attention-desperate authors out there clustering around to “support” you, while your real target audience walks the other direction.

Now, a tweet every now and then about your book with a truly interesting line is great! Once is all you get, though. Remember the junk mail. More than once every day (but preferably every other day) will leave everything you say in the mental trash can.

Now, on to my personal choice for promoting: “face time.” What’s that? Ask your wife. No really! If you don’t have a wife, ask any close female. What’s face time? Face time is sitting down with someone and actually investing in them. Some examples are going on a date, hanging out at the park, having coffee, chatting in the grocery store. Face time establishes a direct connection between the individual and yourself. So how do you do that over the Internet, when there is no real face time? Connect with them personally. If they follow you on Twitter, thank them and post some kind of genuine compliment: Love your profile pic, your website is so neat, so excited for another ______ writer! And when I mean genuine, I mean actually like their picture, go to their website, and like the genre. No fake stuff. They can smell it like blood in the water. Also, follow their tweets and reply to any you find interesting. You don’t have to do that to many, but let them know that YOU know they exist. On Facebook, ask for their input. Post excerpts and get their opinions. Hold give-aways. On your blog, invite comment AND reply. Possibly hold interviews with a few. If they’re budding artists, maybe feature them. Get them involved. Once they’re involved, they will be that much more invested in what you have and will actually be interested in what you have to sell. When you show that you care, they care.

NEVER do the car salesman tactic: never fake your interest. Let me say that again. NEVER fake your interest. They will find out, run, and tell all their friends about it. (How do I know? I’m currently bitter about a car sale from a company, and I do the same thing.) One bad impression is worth ten good impressions. Which are you wanted to gather?

And my final point is to set up something on a writing site. BookRix, Figment, and WatPad are all great sites. I’ve chosen BookRix as my place of choice. Set up a profile, post a few pieces, and then forget about your own. Go out and read through pieces in contests and comment (genuine comments, remember. Positive-negative-positive sandwich.), search through the forums and join the ones you’re interested, and read some of the lowest and highest rated works. Make someone else feel special. Just watch. All those religions out there ain’t lyin’: it’s going to come back to you. It’s just another example of face time.

So, what do you think? And which category do you fall into? Let me know your thoughts and feel free to pass it along! (Yes, I did just use irony. What of it?)

That Thing Called Social Networking

social networking giantsI’ve been attempting to build up my social networking for over a year now, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I truly understood what was required. What’s worse, I was surprised. Surprised! Here I’d been thinking that having a blog was all that was truly needed. After all, those authors with Twitters and blogs seemed to be retweeted enough to get some serious business on their sites. All I had to do was inundate Twitter and facebook with my blog, right? Plus, it’s really more about my writing than how well I’m known online. Right?

 

Wrong. Authors out there, new or old, let me let you in on a secret the lovely R. Lynn shared with me. If you do not have a web presence now, you stand a very small chance of finding representation or of selling a book en mass.

Offended? So was I, slightly. After all, I’d done my share of networking. I had a Twitter (with all of 48 followers). I had my BookRix following and my 270 hearts on there.  And, I had my blog and my 3 subscribers. Wasn’t that a web presence? To be simple, no. That is a beginning. That is FAR from where I needed to be.

Now, I do want you to be angry. If you aren’t angry, you will rarely change. Look at your work. Are you frustrated that no one’s reading it? Are you angry that you’ve been looked over? How many queries have you had returned with a “no thanks”? Are you angry yet? Or are you content to sit with your paper manuscript clutched close to your chest while the other authors out there promote themselves and get representation because of their “popularity, not their writing.”

Let me ask you a question: do you own a cell phone? If you’re 30+, do you know how to text? But why?? That completely removes the personability of life’s connections. After all, you weren’t raised with a cell phone and you most certainly didn’t type with just your thumbs alone. Why would you forsake those things that made life what it was? You traitor! How could you!

How could you not? Yes, the cell phone drastically reduces the human interaction. Yes, texting is weird and gives us horrible wrist injuries. (I should know… I talk/text too much. Add to that typing and I’m just a mess…) But, you chose to do it because you saw how life was simplified. Now if you broke down on the side of the road or ran out of gas, you could call someone. Now you could check in on your child. Now you could ask quick questions without having to spend the 3 minutes it’d take to call someone, and you wouldn’t be obligated to continue any conversations either. You recognized that the world was changing and you adapted. Why is social networking so different?

The tools available to us have both helped us and cursed us. Now, we don’t have to type, print, and snail mail our stories. Now we can attach it to an email and send it to multiple agents. (Not that I recommend doing that… Actually, it’d be a suicidal idea, but you get the idea.) On top of that, the simplicity allows thousands more people A DAY to send MSS to your favorite agent. What’s to make you stand out as more worthy of their attention? Your social networking.

If you’re able to include a website or a blog or a facebook page in your query that the agent can look at and see your network, your value goes up. If they can plug your name in Google and you pop up, your value goes up. It is less work on their end to promote you and shows that you have something the market wants. How outrageous, that you do their work for them! What are they, leeches? Before you freak, think about it this way: now that social media is out there, they have that many more bases they need to cover. They’re already trying to polish your (already polished and edited and tweaked to the most perfect product you can manage yourself) MSS as well as sell it to editors and publishing houses. They also have to create enough buzz to manage to break even, in both paperback AND ebooks. They have to get your name out there, so why not make it a little easier for them? After all, they only get paid if you get paid. Y’all are on the same team!

(On a side note, if you have a writing style or format that doesn’t conform to the market’s current format, having social networking is even MORE important for you. Without it, you stand on shaky ground. If the agent loves it, they’re more likely than not to ask to tweak a lot of it. If they hate it, too bad. Now, if you have 300 hearts on BookRix.com, 159 subscribers on Youtube, 457 followers on Twitter, and 267 likes on Facebook, you might have some more wiggle room. Imagine if you promoted and talked and shared bits and pieces of it consistantly! One friend had over 1000 hearts on BookRix and a solid following. That was a major part of why she was picked up: she had a fan base. Now, she had the traditional format, but do you see what I mean?)

 

So, are you willing to set aside your stereotypes and adapt? Are you willing to lay down your pride? I personally think that my writing is superb (in a completely non-arrogant way), and I’ve got the comments to show for it. (I have had people who hate it, but the majority like it.) I would love to send my completed MSS to an agent and have them accept on just the quality alone. Am I willing to place all my hopes on that alone? No. If I can garner a few more things in my favor, you bet I’m going to go for it. Which would you prefer: 10% or 13%? It might only be slight, but that’s slightly more in my favor.

Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for giving others less work. It just seems like the nice thing to do. Maybe the real question here is are you nice or are you lazy? 🙂

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.