May 102013
(a hearty thanks goes out to the wonderful K.D. Grace, on whose blog this piece first appeared
Thinking Outside Your Box…
Or Writing Isn’t Always About Writing
Sure, we may all want to just cuddle in our little garrets, a purring pile of fur in our laps, leather patches on our sleeves, a pipe at the ready, and do nothing but write masterpieces all day and night – with periodic breaks for binge-drinking and soon-to-be legendary sexual escapades – but the fact of the matter is that being a writer has totally, completely, changed.I’m not just talking about the need to be a marketing genius and a publicity guru – spending, it feels too often, more time tweeting about Facebook, or Facebooking about tweeting, than actually writing – but that authors really need to be creative when it comes to not just getting the word out about their work but actually making money.

A lot of people who claim to be marketing geniuses and publicity gurus will say that talking about you and your work as loud as possible, as often as possible, is the trick … but have you heard the joke about how to make money with marketing and PR? Punchline: get people to pay you to be a marketing genius and/or a publicity guru. In short: just screaming at the top of the tweety lungs or burying everyone under Facebook posts just won’t do it.

Not that having some form of presence online isn’t essential – far from it: if people can’t find you, after all, then they can’t buy your books. But there’s a big difference between being known and making everyone run for the hills – or at least stop up their9 ears – anytime you say or do anything online.

Balance is the key: don’t just talk about your books or your writing – because, honesty, very few people care about that … even your readers – instead fine a subject that interests you and write about that as well. Give yourself some dimension, some personality, some vulnerability, something … interesting, and not that you are not just an arrogant scream-engine of me-me-me-me. Food, travel, art, history, politics … you pick it, but most of all have fun with it. Forced sincerity is just about as bad as incessant narcissism.

Okay, that’s all been said before – but one thing a lot of writers never think about is actually getting out from behind their computers – or out of their garret to tie in the opening to this. Sure, writing may far too often be a solitary thing but putting yourself out there – in the (gasp) real world – can open all kinds of doors. I’m not just talking publicity-that-can-sometimes-equal-book-sales, either: there’s money to be made in all kinds of far-too-often overlooked corners.

Not to turn this to (ahem) myself: but in addition to trying to do as many readings and appearances as I can manage … or stand … I also teach classes. One, it gets me out of the damned house and out into the (shudder) real world, but it also, hopefully, shows people that I am not just a writer. Okay, a lot of what I teach – from sex ed subjects to … well, writing – has to do with my books and stories but it also allows me to become more than a virtual person.

By teaching classes and doing readings and stuff-like-that-there I’d made a lot of great connections, met real-life-human-beings, and have seen a considerable jump in book sales. Now don’t let me mislead you that this has been easy: there are a lot of people out there who perform, teach, lecture, what-have-you already so often it means almost starting a brand new career … scary and frustrating doesn’t even begin to describe it. But, in the end, the rewards have more than made up for the headaches.

Now you don’t have to read, or teach, or whatever: the main point of this is to think outside of your little writing box. If you write historical fiction then think about conducting tours of your city and it’s fascinating secrets and back alleys; if you write SF then think about starting a science discussion group – or even joining one. Like art? How about becoming a museum docent? Write mysteries? Then organize a murder party – or just attend one.

You don’t have to make you and your work the focus of what you are doing. As in the virtual world, connections can come from all kinds of unexpected directions – which can then even lead to new opportunities … both for your writing but also as a never-before-thought-of-cash stream.

My classes and lectures and whatever have not just brought be friends, book sales, totally new publicity venues, but also ($$) cash!

It’s also a great way of balancing my inherent shyness with the need to get out there and be a person – which always helps not just sell whatever products you happen to be selling but can also be extremely good for (not to get too metaphysical or something) the soul: sure, we all might want to be left alone in our little garrets to writer, write, write but the fact is that writing can be very emotionally difficult …. to put it mildly. But thinking outside of your box you can not just reach new, potential, readers but also possibly find friends and an unexpected support system.

Teaching may not be for you, readings may not be for you … but I’m sure if you put your wonderfully creative mind to it I’m sure you can think of a way to not just get the word out about your work but also enrich yourself as a person. It might be painful at first, but – believe me – it’ll be more than worth it.

May 022013

One of the things I promised we’d cover at WriteSEX has to do with knowing your story vs. the actual story being told.  In every novel there’s what the writer wants the world to see and what the story is really about.

We write a book or story and think it’s about one thing, when it turns out it’s really about something deeper.  Each well written novel has a point it’s trying to prove, an ISSUE based on a PREMISE.

Knowing the difference can make synopsis writing and selling the book/story MUCH easier.  Let me illustrate this with an example from my career:

My recent sale to Red Sage required me to fill out standard author paperwork.  This paperwork though, unlike most places I’d been published before required me to understand and know my marketing plans for the book, and thus rework my original synopsis and cover letter.  It asked me to dig deeper, and be a tighter writer just so they could sell the book to their audience, which is the ultimate goal.

Endangered is essentially a story about overcoming addiction through love, through support while learning how to deal with the harsh reality surrounding the major characters.  Each one portrays some aspect of the core ISSUE in one way or another, as it happens around the plot.  Josef is the clearly obvious addict, swearing allegiance to the bottle and the dragon while Isabella seems addicted to her logic.  The problem with that logic is that it can’t fight the bond growing between her and Josef, except there’s still the issue of her lover, Livia.

Livia’s addiction is…well you’ll have to read the book.  but when I wrote and tried to sell this story in the first place, I wasn’t telling the story from the point of what ISSUE was being addressed.

I simply thought this book was a paranormal menage story involving three characters.   Since I knew the core issue of the story, I knew the plot and could write it quickly.  Coming up with the reworked details Red Sage wanted took some serious time – time I could have spent working on the next book.  It’s my fault for not really looking at the marketing aspect of this story from a wider perspective.

Had a similar conversation with Margie Church about the Razor series she and KB Cutter have written for Sizzler Editions.  Love’s Storm just came out but while we were all crafting the blurb I kept telling Margie to make the blurb pithy and find out what the core issue of the story was – This is something Morgan Hawke taught me but I took my sweet time learning.

Razor is a love story with a point to prove.  As the editor, I’d say the point is “Polyamory is a different type of love, one that requires a lot of work and trust, but does exist.”

Margie will have a better version of that if she comments.

We’ll cover Premise next time I have the blog.