marketing, Writers Co-op, writing technique

FIRST LINES

First lines should (obviously) suck the reader into the next line and launch the tone of the story.

“Alan Smith watched the man who had been shot through the brain.”
Serious.

“The home looked like any other on the street. But it hadn’t been there yesterday.”
Mystery sci-fi.

“Roy’s Reconditioning Camp for Cats was doing better than expected.”
Humor.

My favorite first line is from Catch 22. “It was love at first sight.”
Great!

Oh, and my least favorite first line:
“Since the publication of the eleventh edition in 1949, each new edition has been marked by a significant shift in publishing technologies, starting with the advent of phototypesetting in the 1950s, whereby text was rendered on photographic paper rather than as lines of metal type, the norm since the first edition.”
– The Chicago Manual of Style Gag me with a spoon.

Good first lines entice the reader to read on. What are some of your favorite first lines, including ones that you have used in your own stories?

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About Writers, Freedom of Writing, marketing, Uncategorized, world-building

Should writers care?

While complaining to my lady about the quality of successful TV shows – one of my common complaints she commonly ignores – it ocurred to me what I was really complaining about. The protagonists are complex; they have depth of character and they become easy to identify with. But the antagonists are cartoons.

The easy formulas grow stale. I’m bored by antagonists still damaged from childhood trauma. Antagonists fighting others because they want something only one can have are maddeningly repetitive. Antagonists who can’t get along with others who are different from them annoy me. And don’t get me started on stupid conflicts arising because the antagonist simply misunderstands reality. It’s time for better antagonists.

Obviously, real world conflicts arise from all of the above situations. But conflicts also arise when good people in opposition to one another are both right. The new antagonist should have all of the depth and the likeability of the protagonist. That lends the story a background of realism right out of today’s world. The reader is presented with three choices: Choose a side, toss the book for not being escapist, or learn from the ambivalence.

According to thinkers, philosophers, and mathematicians like Marshall McLuhan, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead, the greatest invention of the 20th century is the art of suspended judgement. We don’t seem to have much of that these days. Important issues are divisive and everybody is urged to takes sides, to become an automaton.

So, the question is, should we give our readers whatever side we think they want, avoid real world conflicts altogether, or encourage them to get along with those with whom they disagree?

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Podcast, Writers Co-op

PODCAST INVITATION

  • by Joseph Carrabis

This is a wonderful opportunity to help trauma survivors get their stories and work out to a wider audience.

For those who don’t know, Katie Koestner was on the cover of TIME Magazine at the age of 18 as the first person to speak out nationally and publicly as the victim of “date” rape. She is now the Producer and Host of the Dear Katie: Survivor Stories podcast.

My function is two fold. One, to find any creatives (not just authors) whose work deals with trauma and healing, and engage them in podcast conversations regarding their work and their lives post trauma. Two, to help find trauma survivors who’ll share their stories for the main Dear Katie podcast, review episodes before they go to air, edit, and make suggestions as necessary.

Please leave a comment if you or someone you know has written a fiction or non-fiction book, article, or story about surviving trauma. Include the title of the published work, the publisher, a synopsis of the story, and a link to where I can find it online.

Thanks.
– Joseph Carrabis

My own work in this area can be seen in the material listed below. Your work doesn’t need to mirror or echo my subject matter to be considered; it only needs to be well-written and deal with survivor issues.

Post Title – Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club; Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories I joined the Katie Koestner organization as Producer, Dear Katie: Survivors on the Page Book Club, and Editor, Dear Katie: Survivor Stories.

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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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book promotion, book sales, marketing, Publisher's Advice

Publishing trends 2022

You may have already come across this list of eight publishing trends singled out by WrittenWordMedia (who amongst other things are behind the widely used Free Booksy and BargainBooksy promotion sites), but if not, here’s what they predict:

  1. Direct sales continue to grow
  2. Indie Authors embrace next-gen tech
  3. BookTok goes mainstream
  4. Book prices will increase
  5. More success for small publishers
  6. Advertising becomes more inclusive
  7. Advertising becomes more expensive and difficult to track
  8. The audiobook market continues to evolve

As an indie author, some of these interest me more than others. The higher cost of advertising, for example, is somewhat discouraging, as this is the year I’ve decided I must take the plunge and give it a try (yes, I know, I’ve been saying that for the past three years, but I’m edging ever closer…).

It’s also worth setting up direct sales from a website, which isn’t complicated to do and costs nothing. I have no illusions about the number of sales that result, but it’s another outlet to add, so why not?

The audiobook market is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. The choice there is between going through a professional narrator, which guarantees a certain quality, but is (in my case prohibitively) expensive, and doing it oneself, which means not just mastering the technical constraints but having both the time and the skills for the reading itself.

BookTok? Hmm… At first glance, not for dinosaurs like me. I’ve just about heard of it but haven’t a clue how it works. The only time I visited TikTok, all I saw was young girls dancing or displaying their make up. But apparently it can get a ‘surreal’ number of views. So figuring that even a dinosaur can (to a limited extent) learn, I’ve signed up for Mark Dawson’s TikTok challenge, which starts at the end of this month. More out of curiosity than with any expectation of results. I’ll let you know how it goes.

And you? What are your plans this year for increasing sales of your books?

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book promotion, book sales, marketing, Uncategorized

Promotion Commotion

I’m creating the backmatter for Maisie in Hollywood. Above is the final page in my book, a promo for Sly! The Rogue Decamps.

I’ll have to have Decamps able to be found on Amazon when book one of Maisie is printed and ready to sell. Like Perry, I plan to sell at book and art fairs and to try to get it into local bookstores.

I’m researching promotional strategies on the web. Most of what I see might work for previously published authors with a following – and an email list:

  • Post a cover reveal – Run giveaways of ARCs – Send ARCs to major publications (For sure, in my dreams!)
  • Create bonus content. (For your hordes of dedicated followers, natch.)
  • Announce a title reveal. Have your book available for preorder in time for its cover reveal.
  • Build an author street team of volunteers to incite word-of-mouth buzz. (Again, in my dreams)
  • Create an inventory of book promotion images to promote the preorder and book launch. (This I can handle.)
  • Post fun photos of the book on social media. Publish posts on sites like BuzzFeed & Medium.
  • Your mailing list! Mailing list! Mailing list!

Screw it.

Carl has his path: Get your name known by submitting to anthologies. It seems to be working for him, and good luck to him. GD and Victor have also had success with anthologies and small publishers.

I’m searching for anthologies of humor. I see nothing that fits my stuff. One looked promising until I got to: maximum 700 words.

700 words are not enough to develop any appreciable characterization. I should try it, I guess, to see what I can do with 700 words. Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think so. I don’t want to write graphic-novel-style without the graphics.

Cover reveals on social media, do they work? I skim right past them. Does anybody pay attention to them?

Does anyone here have a substantial mailing list? How did you acquire it?

I’m counting on my eye-catching covers to drive sales. At an art fair, this may work.

I’d like to get a peek at that catalogue that book stores order from. I’m guessing a snappy title is your best bet there. Do you get to include a subtitle? How about a short description? *Sigh* Maybe the crucial piece of information is your name. Are you a known quantity?

Ah! It’s called ‘Books in Print’. I think I can get a look at it.

Speaking of titles, I’m googling titles of articles I’ve posted here and on Medium. A number of them turn up in a google search. The ones that don’t, maybe the wording is not individual enough, there are too many pieces called ‘And Away We Go’, etc.

I’ve just changed the title of this piece from blah to something more interesting.

I’ve known a lot of screwball characters in my time. I could work this or that name into a headline and have the individual folded into my story in a reasonable manner so it’s not an outright bait and switch. I might snag folks who’ve wondered, for instance, whatever became of that bad boy Richard Rheem?

Richard, a former lover of Andy Warhol, was my housemate for two years in Boston. Could I claim he inspired one of my slippery characters? He was sure he deserved more out of life than life was handing him. Yeah, he’d fit right in with my lovely bunch of malcontents.

I google him from time to time. I see a gelatin print of Richard, by Warhol, is selling on artsy.net. Asking price: $18,000! And photos from his days with Andy. I can’t find anything current. Is he still around? When I knew him he already had a couple suicide attempts under his belt.

Hey it’s just a thought.

My larger point is: we have to think outside the box, worm our way into widespread notice by any route available to us.

I’ll wrap this up: What else can I do to improve my chances of being discovered? I know, I know. Finish the damn thing.

This massive project overwhelms me. This is the way it goes with me. I start small, and my thing grows and grows. Sly, an eight-book series, started as a short story in 1985. I had drawn an image of a cat playing a fiddle for an illustration class. I decided it needed a story to go with it. Sly (his name at the time: Puss) was born.

That piece is long lost. I altered a well-known verse and explained the solid history behind it. (Many a childish rhyme was based on a real event.) I recall the verse. The story? Not so much.

Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle.
The cow jumped over Muldoon.
(A cow and a pig joined Puss’s attempt to obstruct an assassination plot. Muldoon was one of my villains.)

The little dog laughed to see such sport.
(Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, was known as Elizabeth’s ‘lap dog’)

Cavendish ran away with the spoon.

A spoon was coated with a clear glaze of poison that would dissolve when dipped in a scalding-hot mug of a treat only recently imported from the Americas–chocolate. This was the method by which Cavendish intended to commit regicide. A Catholic cleric, dressed as a member of his household, wearing his livery, was to serve the beverage and take the fall.

Book four, A Dainty Dish, was eighty-percent written. It will be substantially reworked. Why? Because I discovered John Dee, Elizabeth’s royal astrologer. My conception of the assassination plot has changed radically.

It’s just as well. The cow jumped over Muldoon . . . maybe that gem is best forgotten.

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About Writers, blogging, book promotion, book sales, editing, Freedom of Writing, Literary critique, marketing, Publisher's Advice, show case, Welcome, Writers Co-op

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

The Writers Co-op Show Case allows any writer to receive feedback about their writing. Click “SHOW CASE” for details.

The Rabbit Hole anthology is accepting submissions for our fifth annual publication of speculative fiction. Click “THE RABBIT HOLE” for submission guidelines.

Your blog may be featured here. You, your writing, editing, marketing, or publishing would be of interest . Keep it around 1600 words max and submit it to GD(at)Deckard(dot)one.

Got a question about anything related to the writing life? Feel free to ask it in the comments section.

The Writers Co-op includes fiction authors, poets, editors, illustrators, magazine and book publishers.

You are most welcome to join us.

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book promotion, Freedom of Writing, marketing, Writers Co-op

Goodbye Facebook

In 2017 I discovered Facebook as a mecca for networking. Recently, Facebook has become a censored banality. In between, I was fortunate to find over 3,000 “friends” living the writing life. Many taught me, some edited and published my stories. I cannot thank Facebook enough for the opportunity to interact with so many talented people. But all things change and now the politicians have infested Facebook to get around the First Amendment and promote their own agenda while censoring that of opponents.

“U.S. Code § 230, (2)Civil liability, permits social media to censor content “whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”
https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/47/230
Yet, the First Amendment clearly states “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Politicians have used their regulatory and financial relationships with big media to exert a control over public opinion that is otherwise denied to them.

The result is a leveling of public discourse to the lowest common denominator.

And then, of course, Facebook algorithms ensure that writers who don’t buy ads get scant exposure for posts promoting their books. I left Facebook after scrolling down my feed to find any “friends” book promotion to share on my own timeline. I spent literally forty-five minutes enjoying posts of pets, whines, humor, look-at-me-chit-chat, amazing science (I’m a sucker for amazing science,) and feel-good platitudes. Abruptly, it dawned on me: Not one book promotion! This is all gossip! Critical thinkers have crept away while I wasted my time pretending that I was still networking.

What a waste of time. Goodbye Facebook. Gossip bores me.

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blogging, book promotion, marketing, Uncategorized

I Don’t Know Nuttin’

A writer’s confession

by Mike Van Horn

I don’t know what genre my stories fit into. Yeah, it’s science fiction. Not hard sci-fi, since my heroine flies off to other stars. I know what it’s not. Not dreary dystopian, not vicious alien invaders, not far fuzzy future. 

But what IS my genre? Maybe friendly first contact with personal journey? But try to find that in the Amazon categories. 

Someone called my stories space opera. But there’s not even a fat lady to sing at the end. 

I also don’t know who my target readers are. As I see it, my target readers are people who like my stories. But who are they? How do we even find out? It’s not like I’m writing romance or YA or steampunk or zombies, which all have definable audiences. 

When I look at my Amazon reviews, they seem quite diverse: women and men, American and European. Amazon gives us no info on who buys our books. I’d love to interview my readers to see who they are.

I don’t know what the market is demanding. All the gurus say, scan the other books in your genre and see what’s selling the most, then write that. Ugh. First of all, there are so many sci fi books out there that I think are just terrible, or full of clichés. Of no interest to me at all. 

Secondly, I don’t see many others that are “friendly first contact.” When one woman learned I was writing about friendly aliens who came as tourists and traders, she said, “That’s unusual.” I responded, “That’s why I’m writing it.” 

Thirdly, I write what turns me on. For a long time I’ve been annoyed by the hostile alien invasion trope, and I wanted to write something different. I did no market research on the demand for this topic.

I don’t plan out my stories ahead of time. What I’m writing now started out as a short story, then it metastasized into a trilogy. And now I’m writing Book 4 of the trilogy. And in Book 4, I have no idea what’s going to happen to my heroine at the end. I’m waiting for her to tell me. 

I don’t spend all my time reading other people’s stories, as gurus insist we should. Where would I get the time to do that? Most of my reading is non-fiction. And the novels I’m drawn to are often from years ago. 

I don’t know where my story came from. Interviewers ask, “Where’d you get the idea for your book?” My answer, “I don’t remember.” “Well, how come you have a woman as your MC?” “I dunno. She just popped up in my mind, like my anima or muse.”

I’m doing all these things wrong. I don’t know whether I even count as a real writer. 

But I’m having a great time doing it! 

Mike’s trilogy includes Aliens Crashed in My Back Yard, My Spaceship Calls Out to Me, Space Girl Yearning, and Alien Invasion: There Goes the Neighborhood.
GalaxyTallTales.com

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