Mar 312011

Whether this is your first book or twentieth, the publishing industry has changed and the lion’s share of the marketing, promotion and publicity pushes are now up to you. It’s time to get down to business.

Remember when we talked about a Book Business Plan? Well now we’re going go a little further and show you the ways to gain real success with ten of the most powerful elements of that Book Business Plan.

Yes you’re a writer, an author, a creative problem solver for your plot and characters and boy you are good at it. So now you’re faced with the challenge of plotting your own success as an author but there’s no need to be afraid. Whether you gauge your success in the amount of money you make, the fact that your book is on a bookstore shelf, the best selling in its genre or simply the best selling e-book of the month, it’s important to you.

None of it will happen without at least trying these Ten Tools for Author Success. I’m going to cover these vital tools right here, one tool at a time. Here’s what we’ll cover in this and my following entries.

Ten Tools for Author Success

  • Tool 1, Have a Plan
  • Tool 2, Find Your Unique Hooks
  • Tool 3, Build Your Platforms
  • Tool 4, Understand Your Market
  • Tool 5, Publicity
  • Tool 6, Your Image
  • Tool 7, Marketing
  • Tool 8, Promotion
  • Tool 9, Resources Required
  • Tool 10, Follow up


What are your goals? If this is your first book, what are your publisher’s expectations? How do you propose to let the world know you have a book coming out and how do you intend to approach your market? In other words … what’s your plan?

In order to create a competitive plan, you need competitive strategies. You can start by looking to your publisher. Ask them what they expect from your book. Which of their books, genres and authors are most successful and why?

Now, knowing what expectations your publisher has, you can multiply that and set a sales goal you’ll be proud of. Within your goals should be the following categories:

  • Pre-launch exposure
    • How many pre-orders or readers do you want on a waiting list for your book? This will determine how active your pre-launch marketing and publicity will need to be.
  • First three months sales
    • Research the market, know standard sales numbers for your genre and make it BIGGER. A book’s success or failure is based on its first quarter sales, don’t sell yourself short. Set high goals and push for them.
  • Responses to your platform elements
    • You’ll see later in Tool #3 that you’ll have many platforms from which to shout about your book. Decide now how active you want the response rate to be on those platforms. This way you’ll have viewing and response goals to reach. Of course, responses can only be made to a statement and you are the only one to make the statements, so knowing how active you want your prospective readers to be, pretty much determines how proactive you are going to need to be within your platforms.
  • Demand for the next book
    • Effective platforms and promotional efforts can create demand for more books from an author. Is this something you want? If so, add it to your goals list.
  • 5 year sales goals
    • Look at your author career – where do you want to be in five years? Does writing A LOT fit into that image? Do you want to use revenue earned from your books to improve your life? The sad truth is that most authors simply can’t live on what they earn as writers, but with a plan, strategies and goals that are clear, you can create an income to substantially add to your dreams and lifestyle. It doesn’t just happen. It must be set as a goal and made part of the plan.
  • Number of successful books in 10 years
    • Seriously think about this. Some writers see themselves as the author of one or two books, the creator of a mega success that rocks the world and then they can retire. There is a difference between fantasy, goals and strategic plans. Building a career demands you identify that career. If you want a booming writing career over 10 years, you may need to plan seven to ten books, several articles and short pieces published in collections, compilations or publications, speaking engagements, possibly writing in several genres or even adding non-fiction to your mix. This is a “going wide” strategy instead of a “going deep strategy” that limits the writer to a single genre or non-fiction subject. There are several industry theories on both approaches to building an author career, but the most important opinion is yours. You’ll be living the career and doing the work.

Remember, you’re not just an author; you’re an author building a career. Once your goals are set, it’s easy to take the following tools and put a strong, effective plan in play!

Next time, I’ll be covering Tool #2, Finding Your Unique Hooks to create powerful marketing strategies.

See you then … because, after all, what’s more erotic than a SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR?

Mar 242011

When I started this gig at Write Sex, the idea was to have me write about “taboo” topics in erotica or erotic romance. You know: sex with the dead, screaming banshees, and hotty-hot vampires. As the column has progressed, I seem to usually end up writing about the mechanics of creating fiction, because as I’ve written more and more fiction over the months I’ve been doing this, I find the mechanics become all-important. Therefore, my writings here often contain pretty straightforward writing-technique observations, though they maybe laced throughout with inexplicable glimpses of my own unique mental mise-en-scene (Goth chicks! Humanities grad students! High-end hotels!).

It must have dawned on the editor and proprietor Sascha by now that I have no real intention of telling you — or perhaps I just have no capability to tell you — how to write an exquisite vampire blood-orgy romance sex scene. Sascha has, just the same, kindly refrained from docking my pay. That’s because Sascha understands what all successful writers must sooner or later understand. Your muse is not a bitch. But neither is she easy. She will gut you like a pig if you don’t listen to her. But if you meep politely now and then and blurt lots of “Yes, Ma’am” and “May I freshen your drink, Your Majesty,” there’s a small chance you’ll walk out of this business — instead, I mean, of crawling.

That’s why built into my Write Sex column was a certain breadth of scope — and without it, I’d be sunk. I wouldn’t have written this column, or the last column, or the one before that.

Because living a writing life is all about disaster preparedness. And so, after all these months, I return to the taboo — perhaps the greatest taboo of all: when shit goes wrong. Disaster preparedness is something you’ll need if you’re going to have a writing career, just as if you’re going to run a country or a city or a nuclear plant in a tsunami zone, you should probably have a spare garden hose to cool down your spent fuel rods, and you might want to consider putting your diesel tanks underground.

In writing, as in life, disasters happen. The most common writing disaster is sitting down to write and finding nothing in your brain. Almost as common is getting shit down on virtual paper — called “the computer” by these newfangled tech types — and finding it’s an absolute mess. A third kind of writing disaster is sending something out to your very best friend, your first reader, your agent, your editor or your boyfriend or girlfriend or wife or husband — and getting an “Um…huh. Okay…” in response. Or an “it sucks.” Or the most disastrous feedback of all: “I read the first page and it really seemed good, but I haven’t had time to get back to it. Maybe next week? I’ve been so busy cleaning out my fridge and LIKE-ing photos of puppies on Facebook…”

Christ! How it hurts to hear that shit! To be dismissed! Forgotten! That feeling will ream you if you let it. It will damage your spirit beyond redemption; it’ll leave your soul a smoking ruin. It’ll melt you down and send molten uranium tunneling to China. It’ll flood your Gulf with oil.

But it hurts still more to hear nothing.

By which I mean not just to hear nothing from editors, agents, first-readers, and the like. Sure, that hurts. But for me, it hurts most on the days when I hear nothing from myself. It happens all the time. It’s when my brain just goes dead, and words don’t come, and I not only don’t give a fuck if the hero and heroine ever get together — I don’t care if they lived in the first place. On days like that, my characters could drown in a levee failure or be wiped off the map by a tsunami or lose their fishing business in an oil spill, and I’d leave the computer empty and spent with nothing to show for six hours of agony, and I’d prop my feet up and watch Serenity for the umpteen-thousandth time — and tell myself, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

Please don’t think for a moment that I mean to make light of the fucked up crap that happens to people — whether through no fault of their own, or at least, to my mind, through no fault of the poor people, and no fault of the rich people except being so unwilling to pay taxes that cutting the budget for earthquake and volcano monitoring in somebody else’s state seems like a really good idea. In using this metaphor, I mean to minimize nobody’s suffering — real suffering, not this indulgent crap that we writers do. I don’t wish to imply that my writer’s block even begins to compare to slurping down radioactive iodine with your cornflakes, let alone taking 40 Sieverts of radiation on the chin.

On the contrary; on many of my days, writing an escapist zombie melodrama seems like a reeking load of bullshit considering how bad things are going in the world. Not having any ideas for my next warmed-over stroke fest is hardly the equivalent of having multiple cities flattened by earthquakes. I’m not suggesting that it is. Every day I’m grateful that I’ve the luxury of sitting my ass in a hard wooden chair and daydreaming about fairytales and moonbeams and whips and chains and werewolves. Every day I’m bloody grateful that a meteor hasn’t hit me — yet. Or an earthquake, a levee failure, a Mack truck, a catastrophic core meltdown…whatever. Even being able to blog about this shit is a gift from chance, or whoever. Just speaking for myself, I find that even on my worst days, my being alive to suffer so horribly is actually, God help me, appreciated.

But what I am suggesting is that when you find that creative empty, or end up with a mess of a not-quite-a-novel on your hard drive, or get yet another “It’s not for us” or “couldn’t the heroine be a juggler instead of a unicycle-acrobat?” from a publisher, it’s preparation that will save you. On those days, however bad it feels, even if it feels like the apocalypse — and oh, for fuck’s sake, some days I know it does — feeling bad about it doesn’t cool an emotional meltdown or get food or medicine to your characters who need it.

When emotional disaster strikes, you can say you never thought it could happen to you — despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. In no way, shape or form am I one of those pricks who’ll say in that case you have “only yourself to blame.” Creative emptiness feels like a tragedy, so it is a tragedy. Getting self-righteous about someone else’s pain is as reprehensible as mixing up “looting” and “finding supplies.”

But the first principle of disaster preparedness is admitting “it can happen to me.” If you’re riding high on creative success, or just pumped from drinking too much coffee, you can rest assured you’ll hit the skids at some point. If you’re the creative and spiritual equivalent of “high on life” at the moment keep in mind that life may have a special nightmare in store for you.  And if you’re one of those snooty hyped-up San Francisco weirdos nobody invites to their parties who has three first aid certificates (dog, cat, and human) and knows exactly what the liquefaction will be at the base of the Bay Bridge pylons, when disaster strikes you’ll know what to do.

You’ll be the one giving CPR to werewolves hit by runaway MacGuffins.

And that’s your chance to make a difference.

Mar 132011

A friend of mine once called me ambitious. I’m still not sure what he meant by that – was it a compliment or criticism? Put-down or praise? It’s made me think, though, and that’s always a good thing. I’d normally describe ambition as a drive to succeed, a persistence to rise in status, income, reputation, so forth. But what does that mean to a writer? It could be money – but since when is money the answer to anything? It could be reputation – but then a lot of bad writers are well thought of, even famous (are you listening, Tom Clancy?). Ambition can also mean cold-heartedness, or a reckless disregard towards anything and anyone that’s not directly related to a goal.

God, I hope I’m not that.

I do know that writing is important to me – probably the most important thing in my life. Because of that, I look for opportunities to do it, and to get it seen. I rarely let opportunities pass me by: markets, genres, experiments – anything to get the spark going, juice up my creativity, and get my work published. Erotica was one of those things, an opportunity that crossed my path and it has been very good to me. I didn’t think I could edit a book, but then I had a chance to do that as well, and now have done a bunch of the suckers.

The fact is that opportunities never find you: you have to find them. The fantasy of some agent, or publisher, or agent, picking up a phone and calling you out of the blue is just that: a fantasy, or so rare it might as well be just a fantasy. Writing is something that thrives on challenge, growth, and change. Some of that can certainly come from within, but sometimes it takes something from the outside: some push to do better and better, or just different work. Sending work out, proposing projects, working at maintaining good relationships with editors, publishers and other writers is a way of being involved and getting potential work to at least come within earshot. It takes time, it certainly takes energy, but it’s worth it. The work will always be the bottom line, but sometimes it needs help to develop, get out, and be seen – those contacts and giving yourself a professional push is often what it takes.

Remember, though: Ambition can also mean “a cold-heartedness, a reckless disregard towards anything and anyone that’s not directly related to a goal.” Drive is one thing, but when it becomes an obsession with nothing but the politics of writing and not the work itself, it takes away from the process rather than adding to it. Being on both sides of the fence – as an editor as well as a writer – I know how being determined and ambitious can either help or hinder in getting your work out. Being invisible and hoping for opportunity won’t get you anything but ignominy. However, if you’re pushy, arrogant and care only for what someone can do for you and not that you’re dealing with a person who has their own life and issues, you can end up closing doors rather than opening them.

I like working with people who know about Chris, and not just the person who can publish their work – just as I like writing for publications that are run by kind, supportive, just-plain-nice folks. Rejections always hurt, but when that person is someone I genuinely like or respect, then I’ll always do something better next time. As I’ve said before, writing can be a very tough life and having friends or connections that can help, both professionally as well as psychologically, can mean a world of difference. Determination to be published and to make professional connections at the cost of potential comrades is not a good trade-off. I’d much rather have writing friends than sales, because in the long run having good relationships is much more advantageous than just the credit. Books, magazines and web sites come and go, but people are here for a very long time.

But more than anything else, it’s vital to never sacrifice the love of writing or the struggle to create good work. Someone can have all the friends in the world and a black book full of agents and publishers, but if they’re lazy or more concerned with getting published than doing good work, they are doing those friends and markets, as well as themselves, a serious disservice. Getting out there is important, and determination can help that, but if what gets out there is not worthy of you … well, then why get out there in the first place? It might take some time, might take some work, but good work will usually find a home: a place to be seen, but bad work forced or just dumped out there is no good for anyone, especially the writer.

The bottom line, I guess, is that I really do believe in ambition, both for work and to find places to get exposed, but more importantly I believe in the bottom line: the writing. The drive to be a better and better writer is the best kind of ambition of all.

Mar 032011

Kids, if you want to work in the wacky world of SEO writing you need to know the goal posts might be moved on you every so often.

Because what we do in keyword copy writing is about the, say it with me now…keywords as much as it is the copy (really it’s about the keywords, don’t let anyone fool you) you write to the keywords, work copy around the keywords, research what keywords will work with a particular client (research you should be paid for, by the way) or work-in keywords given to you by your client; get it, the emphasis is on, that’s right say it with me…keywords. Therefore don’t be so shocked when a client comes to you and says, ‘hey let’s change up some of those keywords we have been using because they do not earn us a lot of traffic currently’.

Learn to adapt.

It’s the the nature of the beast. This beast is Internet writing a many sullied thing at best, poorly written missives at worst. You see all the bad writing on the net or truncated net-speak that passes for actual sentences. You realize language is being aborted for the brevity of some sort of digispeak. It should not come as a shock to any of us as the language changes-for the worse as far as I’m concerned-and grammar goes out the window (shit, all ya gotta do is read some of my posts to see how bad grammar has effected me!) that the goal posts will be shifted to what a client thinks they need in their copy and this includes what keywords they will use and even how long the copy might be.

So take it from your old uncle Ralphie, be ready for changes even if you have a contract (which, in the end, is not worth dickall really…try hunting someone down on-line to honor what has been agreed upon. Yes I know emails are evidence but unless you hire a lawyer to go get the $600.00 bucks owed you, you can’t enforce a contract from on line, or anywhere else. If you think you can, I have some land in NJ you might like) and agreed upon keywords, it’s all not only subject to change, it pretty much damn well will.