marketing

Marketing

Of the Co-op’s stated goals when it was established six years ago, Curtis Bausse says, “Well, I think we’ve done pretty well on the whole. Still struggling with the marketing side, but who isn’t? And as Carl says, there’s more to come, so maybe one day we’ll crack it. One can always dream….”

Why do writers find marketing so difficult? Is it, really? Or are we just that bad at it? I suspect both. Asking me to market my book is like asking me to the moon for lunch.

Traditional publishers that pay royalties and advances have a system. They list your book in their “release ad” in Publishers Weekly and other magazines and provide tip sheets and advance selling materials to their sales forces, who go out into the field and talk to booksellers and librarians; send catalogs to libraries, bookstores, specialty outlets & schools; put your book on the web; send out review copies to review sources and advance reader copies to booksellers; and show your book at conventions for librarians, booksellers, and teachers. They provide metadata about your book to Amazon and other online bookstores, as well as getting it into the pipelines of wholesalers. Most promote new books on social media. They may even take out ads, create giveaways, help organize online or physical tours, write and send press releases.

This is the point to ask oneself, can we do all that? No. Some of it? Yes. Should we try? Probably not. Traditional publishers have honed their marketing. Doing “all that” must be required or they would not have spent all that money doing all of it.

So how do we crack book marketing? Sometimes, problem solving begins with listing what we do know, or can find out, then coming up with some/any idea to try, to see what we can learn from the effort.

I know that advertising with Google ads doesn’t work.
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/jousting-windmills/

I know that books are not a commodity, in the sense of candy bars or beer, because, like houses, nobody buys a six-pack. Books are sold one at a time like cars and if the buyer likes it, they may come back in the future for a new one from the same dealer. Unfortunately, one book makes too little profit for an author to open a dealership unless that author has a ton of books out there. Steven King or Clive Cussler have their own book dealerships. Amazon does.

Not to compete with Amazon, but to copy what they do well as well as we can, I wonder if authors shouldn’t form independent book clubs where, together, we sell our books. A club’s webpage could be here on the Writers Co-op website. Members could link to the club’s page from their own website and social media. The club could include independent publishers and would offer a wider selection of books for readers to browse. Our advantage over Amazon is that, being small, our books wouldn’t be lost in a digital storm. And members would keep control over their books and keep all profits. What do you think?

What other ideas can we kick around?

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Uncategorized

Writing Contest Rant

I recently entered a short story writing contest–one of these where you write 1500 words to a prompt.* I had no expectation to win; I was just having a good time.

The winner was announced today, and I read it to see what a winning short story was like. It was terrible. I couldn’t follow the plot. Poorly drawn characters. Key elements not explained. Bad word choices. It was like a low-quality kids’ story. And they didn’t even write to the prompt. I’m guessing it was written by somebody for whom English was not their first language.

I considered leaving a comment like this in the Comments. But the other comments were glowing, so I decided I couldn’t rain on that parade. Thus I’m dumping on you folks.

It made me angry, and also sad. I just had to get this off my chest.

Here’s my question. What should you do with bad feedback like this? I know the Oreo game, but I had nothing good to say about it. No redeeming features.

*The prompt was “happily ever after” and my story was about a couple who discovered that this meant forever and ever–and they got tired of each other.

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About Writers, editing, Writers Co-op, writing technique

What IS a Good Story?

While working with editors to screen stories submitted for publications, I find many are rejected because the submission is not a story. It is a scene, a statement, a monologue, maybe a rant. Sometimes, the rejected submission is beautifully worded sentences that literally have no point beyond themselves.

It is not true that any account of a series of related events or experiences constitutes a story. I know that is the definition of a narrative. But for our purposes, it is no more a story than is the space in a building between two adjacent floors. We need stories with conflict, or tension, or surprise, or extraordinary characters or character behavior, or controversy, or mystery, or suspense, or -you get the point. Something that interests a reader and draws them in. And, will give readers reason to buy the next issue of the magazine or anthology.

Google “what makes a story good” and you’ll get thousands of returns. Many writers and teachers of writing offer useful advice for crafting a story. But that advice is useless to the writer who has no story of interest to tell. Editors reject stories with form letters that say nothing. But among themselves, they share reasons such as,
“The writing is good, but the story is uninteresting.”
“A boring telling – no effort is made to pull the reader into the story.”
“I’m sure this entertained the writer more than me.”
“Uninteresting with a predictable ending.”
“No. Not a story.”

Obviously, we all know a good story when we see one. Maybe I’m attempting to categorize an observable element although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters. But if someone could succently state what a good story is, they would be helping all of us to get more work published.

What do you think?

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Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Find a Critique Partner

A critique partner is a good idea. It’s hard to read your own story with an impartial, critical eye. Sue Ranscht and I are currently reading each other’s WiP to provide one another with outside perspective and mutual support. I can only hope that my critiques are as useful to her as hers have been for me. Thanks to Sue’s honesty, I’m re-writing my set up. She pushes me to write deeper.

If you are considering critiquing another writer’s work – but, you know, you hesitate to criticize another writer’s work – here are some tips to get you thinking in a useful direction.
Read thoroughly. Don’t skim or speed-read. Surface-level feedback (“I liked it!”) sucks as useful.
Consider using a “compliment sandwich” approach. Start your critique with positive feedback, then offer any criticisms or suggestions, and conclude with additional positive input.
Use clear, specific language.
Make suggestions, not mandates.
Don’t let personal preferences cloud your judgment. Easier said than done, but try.
Practice striking the perfect balance between praise and being constructive.
Watch your tone! Email is notorious for giving the wrong impressions.

Sue has offered to connect you with a writing partner, right here on the Writers Co-op. See:
https://writercoop.wordpress.com/2022/04/24/lets-exchange-critiques/

It also helps to find a writing partner if you stay in touch with people in the writing life. Browse these links.
https://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php
https://www.agentquery.com/
https://www.critiquecircle.com/landing
http://winebird.com/
https://www.critiquematch.com/
There are a ton of other such sites, but I have zero interest in those that charge a fee for use, exist mainly to collect personal data, or don’t strike me as currently active.

The easiest way to get a writing partner, of course, is to email a piece of your work to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. You are thereby agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work. But that’s why they’re called a partner.

NOTE: The image at the top of the page has nothing to do with this discussion. I just liked it.

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About Writers, Literary critique, Writers Co-op

Let’s Exchange Critiques!

Writers Co-op is about helping writers. We’re here to offer advice, resources, and experience about marketing, publishing, and the writing process itself. I’m sure there are other ways you can think of in which Writers Co-op can support its community, but I’m here to offer the one every writer needs even if they think they don’t: thoughtful, constructive, kind critiques.

How many of us are fortunate enough to have a dedicated set of beta readers who eagerly await each installment of our latest Work In Progress? Who among us has even one friend to call on who will read the 400 page draft of our brilliant literary fiction with an editor’s eye, sharing their thoughts in enough detail to help us polish our work to a professional gleam? How often have you wished a real writer would take a look at what you’ve written and offer a little free feedback?

Of course, it’s possible you are absolutely certain what you have spent months writing in the solitary mental confinement of your favorite room or coffee house or poolside bar is absolutely perfect just as you’ve written it. *snort* Guess again. Don’t get me wrong, there are probably many positive things to say about your manuscript, but there are probably at least a few things that need clarification or further description or a little rewriting to maintain continuity and interior logic. Sure, it’s all clear to you — you wrote it. But if you’re looking for a critique, you’re hoping for an audience. If a member of the audience says it’s not clear or it’s confusing, you’d do well to pay attention.

So here’s the deal:

If you have a piece of writing you would like a member of Writers Co-op to critique, whether it’s a short story, essay, poem, novella, novel, or a portion or chapter of a longer work, attach it as a .docx or .pdf to an email and send it to me at stranscht@sbcglobal.net. Please put “Critique Exchange” in the Subject line. (Just to be clear, by submitting your work for critique, you are agreeing to critique the work of the person who critiques your work.) I will match you with a critique partner who groks your genre and is able to take on a critique at that time, and they will send you their work to critique while they critique yours. The writer who needs the most time to complete their critique will set the deadline for both of you. Writers Co-op expects you both to honor that deadline or Writers Co-op will have the option of disallowing further participation of the author who fails to meet the deadline.

Now, a few words about writing and receiving critiques. Write the sort of critique you would find most helpful. Like I said earlier, thoughtful, constructive, and kind work for me. Snark and sarcasm might be fun, but they aren’t actually helpful or kind, so please restrain those urges. As for receiving a critique, first coat your skin with Armor All, then consider Neil Gaiman’s sage advice:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ~~~ Neil Gaiman

We’re excited to invite you to take advantage of this service. You might even know other writers who are searching for this opportunity and would be grateful if you shared this post with them.

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About Writers, inspiration, Stories, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

CONNECTIONS

A story can emerge into consciousness when we connect the dots in unexpected ways. Dead people have to outnumber the living. Can you put your sock on the wrong foot? What are the odds a computer will develop intelligence on its own? How in hell can a meat sack travel the interstellar distances between stars -maybe, we’ll just have to ride our planet and see where it takes us? In a society of adamantly diverse groups, can any be right, or are there universal truths to unite us? If you survive a nuclear war and the radiation doesn’t kill you, how do you not starve to death? How many NGOs are strictly for profit? Is slavery really immoral or simply economic? How do we personally change when we go from a normal life into a real war? Are we essentially a stupid species, using up our planet’s resources, knowing all the while this has to end badly?
That these are all story ideas, I know, having written each of them. Writers think the damndest things.

My condo overlooks a golf course here in Southwest Florida and early this morning, while watching the caretakers keeping it smooth and green, it occurred to me that a really challenging golf course would be one that is not maintained. Connect that thought to determined golfers, years into a post-apocalyptic world, and you have a story, maybe sad, maybe satirical, maybe uplifting -the writer decides.

How we connect our thoughts, the bridges between them, can build any story. Mimi Speike creates charmingly delightful illustrated works, Carl E. Reed slams the senses with intellectually-pointed outrage, Curtis Bausse has given us intricately devised detective stories, Perry Palin uses his sense of nature to inform his characters of their own nature. Connecting what we know in unexpected ways may be close to a definition of creativity and that applies to any genre.

What were you thinking, just before a story idea popped into your awareness?

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Uncategorized

Apple Pie in the Sky?

I’m not writing about Maisie. But ya gotta look at a picture, OK?

It’s a problem, isn’t it? What can I say that hasn’t been said multiple times, or that isn’t more me-me-me?

I could talk about Maisie forever, but you may not appreciate it. I’m doing my best to come up with alternative topics. GD is keeping his end up, and Sue is doing a marvelous job with Showcase.

We have a (possibly, don’t recall the name) new presence on the site. KMOSER56 has copied my last piece to the site ‘It’s All About the Journey.’ She writes on a range of topics, and has done so for quite a while. Archived material goes back to 2010! She’s given me an idea. I don’t recall if I’ve tried this before. Maybe I have, but I’ll try again.

I’m exploring what sites might be open to posting some of the writing-related articles I’ve written, and also what sites are dedicated to fiction. (I’ve placed all of Maisie on Medium, chapter by chapter, and snagged few readers. Medium is not the place for fiction.)

I’ve googled ‘Where to publish short stories.’ I have a list of sites to explore. I also came across a list of one hundred chit-chat blogs.

In terms of short stories: Wattpad, forget it (YA audience). Commaful, possible. Inkitt? StoryWrite? Several more I’ve never heard of.

Commaful looks promising: (These are comments by someone on one of the sites I visited today. (Once again, I didn’t bother to jot a name.)

_________________________

Stories on Commaful are in a unique format that people have called the multimedia fiction movement. The term multimedia fiction refers to fictional writing that involves more than just the written word, commonly some form of visual or audio. The most popular type of multimedia fiction is the picture book.

The Commaful Format: I am used to reading prose, not a picturebook layout. After trying it out, my opinion has changed. I think the format is one of the most genius features about the site.

The Audience: The site is growing very quickly. I don’t have real analytics about what the audience is, but my personal experience is that the audience is relatively young. I suspect this will change as the website continues to grow.

Story Trailers: I’ve never seen my writing shared nicely to Instagram as a video before. With a tap of a button, I had a pretty awesome story trailer that I could share to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Diversity: Not a huge library of stories yet, but I’ve come across a several LGBTQ and minority focused stories already. That’s more than I can say about many other sites. There are occasional sightings of bestselling authors. There are readers and writers from all backgrounds, age ranges, sexuality, and experience.

_________________________

I’m going to give Commaful a tumble.

Maisie is not a short story (you know that by now, right?)
but it does, with a bit of tinkering, work as a serial.
I’m going to explore that angle.

Apple Pie in the Sky? Maybe.
But I won’t know if I don’t try.

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Uncategorized

Writing is a Refuge. And, thoughts on Magical Realism.

We all have our reasons for writing. I’ve long told people that I write because I have stories to tell. But writing is also a refuge from my frequently frantic existence.

I’m googling Tennessee Williams, having been intrigued by posts on Facebook promoting Follies of God, by James Grissom, a series of interviews with Williams and people he worked closely with. Tennessee has said:

“Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory.”

“I’m only really alive when I’m writing.”

“. . . living at a tilt against reality, because reality is simply too much to handle.”

Here’s the quote that first caught my eye:

“I once dreamed of escaping to magical places: Movie sets; fairy kingdoms; lovely homes with lovely people. I wanted to escape the abuses, the taunts, the grinding, onrushing tide of meanness that rolled over me all through my early years. I never got to the magic castle I insisted was deep in the woods, but I escaped through words, through images on a screen. Every day–and you need to remember this–you can sit before the pale judgment and strike words on its surface and escape and rise and find the magical places you wanted. The magical places that are within all of us broken, desperate people.”

Williams was born into a turbulent household. His father, a drinking, gambling father with little patience for his sensitive son, traumatized him and his sister Rose. He found his safe haven in writing. Poor Rose was given a prefrontal lobotomy in an effort to alleviate her increasing psychological problems.

His writing was a therapy for him. He wrestled with his demons in work full of grotesques, but also full of humor and compassion for the weirdos, the brokenhearted, the misfits, the losers, for those of us who can’t always cope.

My writing is also a therapy. Every one of my characters has a large portion of me in their makeup. I’ve slammed my upbringing through them, I’ve commented on my ongoing relationships, and I’ve softened my judgements of my own less than delightful traits by explaining them to myself through the lens of my weirdos, in whom I don’t fail to find redeeming qualities, though I admit many of them are creeps and scoundrels. Adorable creeps and scoundrels.

I’ve been telling people I write Magical Realism. But I honestly don’t know what to call it.

Magical Realism is a narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into a seemingly realistic world. 

Matthew Strecher (Who dat? I googled him: Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Chair of the Department of Liberal Arts at Sophia University in Tokyo) defines it as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe, that is not explained, but treated as a normal occurrence.”

I have been under the impression it includes some kind of social or political relevance. Maisie is pure escapism.

In the end, what does it matter? That I am able to pigeonhole Maisie, position her in the literary landscape, that is. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to sell her to an agent or a publisher, the folks who insist on slapping a label on everything.

Tell people you’re writing about a talking mouse, they think Disney. Tell them it’s fantasy, they think wizards and dragons. Tell them it’s magical realism, they probably think Harry Potter, at this point.

Will anyone be debating whether Maisie is Magical Realism? I don’t think so. I hope folks are going to consider it absurd fun, featuring a character they care about.

I care about her. I live in her world. It’s a lovely world. I don’t want to live anywhere else. The real world is full of disappointment. Maisie never lets me down.

I write because it’s the best game in the world. I write because it’s a space I feel at home in. I write because I love the craft of writing.

Like–probably–most of you, I can’t get my family to read my work. I send them a chapter, hear nothing back, and think: I’m doing what you couldn’t do in a million years, you creeps. And you’re not smart enough to realize how good it is.

Does being dismissed deflate me? Not a bit. It strengthens my resolve. I’ve tried my hand at many a creative endeavor. I feel writing is the one area in which I’ve done outstanding work. It has improved my self-esteem tremendously.

I’m a pantzer. I start my tales without knowing where they will go. I create my characters, fall in love with them, and write to work out their destinies for my own pleasure, and to satisfy my own curiosity.

I don’t write because I hope I’m going to make money out of it. I write for the joy of it.

How about you?

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Writers Co-op

ABOUT US

The Writers Co-op was established April, 2016, by a handful of refugees from Penguin’s writers’ website, Book Country. Our first post is
Here we are!

Enjoy the writing life with us.

We swap and share news, opinions and experiences about writing, from first paragraph to finished product and beyond. Especially beyond, as Curtis Bausse wrote in our first blog: Because who wants to write a book and then not promote it?

Your blogs are welcome. New bloggers can contact GD[at]Deckard[dot]one for inclusion. Promote your work. Share your anecdotes and analysis, thoughtfulness and humor, awards and recommendations, opinions, rants and wackiness.

Everyone in the writing life is welcome. Writers, editors, agents, publishers, artists, marketers, Et al.

You’ve come to the right place. Have fun.

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VR Writing, world-building, writing technique

Writing for the METAverse

PHOTO: Buzz Aldrin walking on Mars. Virtually, of course.
https://www.space.com/32563-how-buzz-aldrin-took-a-virtual-walk-on-mars.html

The METAverse is coming. You know, totally immersive virtual worlds; computer-simulated environments populated by people who simultaneously communicate with others and participate in shared activities. They are working and shopping and vacationing, all without leaving home.

The METAverse is the world as you wish it to be. Pour yourself a real drink and you can drink it while sitting on a beach, or in a bar with friends or, hell, on Mars if you wish. Instantly. That’s how long it takes to go anywhere in VR.

I can imagine sitting at a table outside the Café de Flore, at the corner of boulevard Saint Germain and rue Saint Benoit, Paris, with people from the Writers Co-op. We talk about writing virtual reality stories for this new ‘verse. The problem is we have to write stories where we do not control all of the characters because every “reader” enters our story as a character. (Wrap your head around that!)

It’s simple, really. The story just has to move forward only when a user (aka reader) does or says the right thing. We are creating the story, but not all of the characters. (And we’re not doing the programming. Programmers do that, based on the story created by the writer.)

Here’s some tips from those currently writing for VR.

“In VR, the space is the story. Spaces are pregnant with sensory detail, ideas, behaviors, and narrative possibility—your job is to put that all to use. We encourage you to think less about generalized “realism” and more about specificity of vision, manifested in space. We can’t express this enough: the space is as (if not more) important than your plot and characters. While composing your story, think about the ways you can build environments capable of making the viewer imagine stories of their own—even without any other human beings in the picture.”
Writing for VR: The Definitive Guide to VR Storytelling
https://vrscout.com/news/writing-vr-definitive-guide-vr-storytelling/

“In VR, you can’t just talk at your user. Well, you could, but that’s not especially exciting and they can probably get that level of experience from a bog-standard YouTube video.
So, you need to think more carefully about the different ways you can tell your story – and how to guide them around it. In a 360-degree experience, you can’t guarantee that your user is going to be looking in the right direction. In fact, you can almost guarantee they won’t be, unless you point them to it.”
How are you communicating with the user?
https://radix-communications.com/virtual-reality-script-writing/

Example:
The following story changes as you read it. It’s interactive. Try it to see how environment and choice are used in VR stories.
“Trapped & Transformed in Virtual Reality”
https://www.writing.com/main/interactive-story/item_id/1930286-Trapped–Transformed-in-Virtual-Reality

The METAverse will not replace books any more than did the movies. But now may be the time to make a name for yourself by being one of the early writers in a new medium. Me? I’ll just settle into a seat at the Café de Flore and read a good book.

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