About Writers, Uncategorized, Writers Co-op

Writing for Fun

“These silly writers let their imaginations run away with themselves.”
– Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!

It being Monday morning, I naturally selected my “writing cup” for morning coffee and thought about my WiP, only to remember the online game I had been playing over the weekend. I had promised people there I would write a song for our pirate guild. Well, why not call that writing? Toulouse-Lautrec painted posters of ill repute. Marshall McLuhan and his anthropologist friend Edmund Carpenter knew peoples for whom living is itself art. Why should a writer limit expression to a book-yet-to-be-published? Why avoid the fun of being silly?

This is ingame (silly) writing.

The Pirate Song

Against convention we rebel,
To sail the sea of briny foam.
We drink with demons straight from hell
And chase their asses home!

Chorus:
The waves be drunk and so are we,
The moon be high and so are we.
We’re sinful dirty pirates
And we’re sailing to be free!

We’ll blow yer ship to smithereens,
Board yer women & belay yer men.
We’ll sink yer bloody brigantines
And haul yer treasure to our den!

(Chorus)

So flee the hull that flies the skull
Or Davey Jones will pick yer bones.
Cannon balls and boarding brawls
Are winsome cheers to buccaneers!

(Chorus)

I can’t be the only writer who also writes just for fun.
What about you?

Standard
book promotion, book sales, Writers Co-op

FROM NICHE TO SCRATCH

(OR HOW TO MAKE A SIX-FIGURE INCOME WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR CHAIR)

I get these ads in my Facebook feed from time to time (all right, every day) suggesting that my lackluster book sales are the result of my unimaginative marketing plan and my lack of vision. There are fortunes to be made on the internet and, with their guidance, I too can board that boat I keep missing, grab the brass ring, quit my day job, start drinking the good stuff and enjoying wafer-thin after dinner chocolates whenever I damn well like.

I am, in case you haven’t guessed, skeptical. I have seen so many of these pitches—and yes, even done a seminar or two—and I always, ALWAYS find the same thing: tired platitudes about perseverance and “giving the people what they want.” Find out who your core audience is, they tell me, and then market directly to them. Grow your mailing list (they love to use grow as a transitive* verb, it’s market-speak doncha know?) Offer free stuff! Find your niche! Become a brand! Write a blog with a cute and catchy name! People will WANT to buy whatever you sell because they will want to buy YOU!

Or, something like that. Maybe it all sounds so unlikely to me because I really don’t find being marketed to at all appealing. You want me to buy your stuff. I get it. Don’t try to razzle-dazzle me with bling or tchotchkes or other crap I didn’t want in the first place, and don’t try and tell me that I’m part of some special club now, and I should hashtag you every time I twit. All you’ll end up doing is making me feel insulted. I don’t want to be critical of the general population (gen pop in eerily-appropriate prison parlance) but if this approach really works with a sizable number of them, well, then, I guess it’s not much wonder that I can’t connect.

Do I sound old and irritable? Check. And check.

A musician I’ve never heard of pitched my feed this morning. She makes six figures working from home (homeschooling mother of four!) selling her CD’s on the internet. She doesn’t perform live or do personal appearances (homeschooling mother of four!) It’s all internet-based marketing. And yet—six figures.

Okay. So sell me. Tell me one new thing in your pitch and I’ll sign up for your marketing course.

Probably my inner skeptic automatically prevents me from approaching this sort of thing with an open mind, but honestly? She’s got nothing. As far as I can tell, her big reveal (and yes, they love to use reveal as a noun) can be summed up in one sentence: “Why be a little fish in a big pond when you can be a big fish in a small pond?” In other words, find a niche.

Niche marketing isn’t a particularly new idea. Back in the days when brick-and-mortar bookstores (remember those?) were still a thing, there was a lot of handwringing about the big chain stores—Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waldens—driving the independents out of business. As it turned out, they had all underestimated the white whale lurking beneath the swells, a little thing called Amazon.com, but I digress. A lot of independent bookstores did go out of business, especially the be-everything-to-everyone-get-your-bestsellers-for-thirty-percent-off-but-we-also-have-a-great-backlist-and-you-can-get-a-cup-of-coffee type of bookstores. Curiously, it was often the small niche stores that survived. The New Age Salon in Santa Fe. The Knitting Book Nook in Seattle. Cats Are People, Too in Minneapolis (plus Cats Are People, Two in St. Paul.) I made all of those up, of course, but it was a real phenomenon. Providing a specialized list of books to a very specific audience can be a successful enterprise, if you’re not too fussy about your definition of success.

And with the internet at our twitchy fingertips, such specialized stores should be even more viable. Now you don’t even need a store, and you can reach millions of potential customers. Our Homeschooling Mother of Four’s niche? Celtic Heavy Metal. Christian Celtic Heavy Metal, as it happens. I admit, it’s hard for me to write those words without feeling my eyes roll, but hey, everybody likes something. I’d plug her website, but I don’t want to get curmudgeon all over her nice, shiny, heavy Celtic Christian vibe. Frankly, it was all a little slick and predictable for my tastes. She can play, and it’s a very professional production for a homemade disk, but—six figures? Really? Is she counting the ones after the decimal point?

(Yeah. That did sound bitter. I withdraw the question, your honor.)

And besides. If she’s making a hundred thousand dollars doing what she loves best, following her calling, etc, then why is she wasting her time hawking some by-the-numbers marketing program to wannabes like me? Wait. Is it because she wants to share her innovative strategies with others? Cuz she’s been so fortunate and now she wants to give something back? It’s amazing how many marketing gurus have tried that line on me. And every time they do, I feel my brain getting a little bit smaller, atrophying in its bony shell.

So niche marketing, yes or no? It certainly has many proponents. There was a guy the other day telling me that selling books on Amazon wasn’t necessarily good, because you might be selling to the wrong people. Amazon’s search-and-sell algorithms are keyed to recognize patterns. Did consumer A purchase your book? Okay. What else has she purchased? Is there a pattern? What else might she want? How can we steer her to those things? It’s all about your target audience, and selling books to people outside of your target audience only confuses the algorithms. It gums up the works, dilutes the information stream. Better to sell fewer books but to the right audience. That way, the marketing machinery will recognize your audience members and find more of them for you.

I think that’s what he was saying. I glazed over a bit around paragraph three but that was the gist. You need to focus on your target audience. Also, write a LOT of books. One a month if possible. (And no, I’m not making that part up.)

I can’t do that, but maybe I could do something like it. I have two thirds of a YA historical trilogy about the Minoan civilization. It’s fun, and has lots of magic and adventure. Plus, did I mention the Minoan civilization? You can’t get much more niche-y than that. By the time I finish book three, it’ll be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 pages, but I can break it up into fragments, 200 pages here, 150 pages there. That’s gotta be good for at seven or eight books. I can saturate all the pre-Hellenic Greece websites, twitter-blitz every website about ancient matrifocal cultures, haunt the linear-A chatrooms. Who knows what could happen? I could catch on, and soon a whole herd of bookish kids and history geeks will be hanging on my next installment. And then, the movie deal. Maybe Miyazaki. It’s ready made for Studio Ghibli.

And then, while plotting out this strategy, I see this quote from, of all people, Hayao Miyazaki. ”In order to grow your audience,” he says, “you must betray their expectations.”

Yeah. I don’t know whether that’s really true in the age of the instant entertainment, but it should be. It really should. Otherwise, what tipping point have we gone past where people only want more of the same? Only want what worked for them before? Cuz, wow! Culture-wise? That’s an ocean that’s barely knee-deep.

 

*Yes, I know grow can be a transitive verb when we’re talking about string beans or snapdragons, but the modern fixation with “growing your business” or “growing your client base” is definitely market-speak.

Standard
Writers Co-op

QUOTES 2016

The first blog on WritersCo-op.com was Curtis Bausse’s “Here we are!” of April 26, 2016 announcing the site. It was aptly tagged, “BLOGGING, BOOK PROMOTION, COOPERATION.”

Comments included Jill Barth’s, “Looking forward to collaboration, meeting other writers & reading stories.”

Success will be judged in due time. As the optimist who fell off the roof could be heard saying as he passed windows on the way, “So far so good.” So far, many writers have shared good information, their insights and their stories.

Here are a few from our first year.

Curtis Bausse
The Book a Break short story competition
“And overall, there’s another, slightly unexpected aspect – you may think it’s corny, but I found that providing the impetus for writers to create stories is quite enchanting. Some of them, perhaps, were already there in people’s minds, and might have found expression anyway; others came into being for the occasion. Either way, I find it almost as satisfying to have nurtured that whole process as if I’d written them myself.”

GD Deckard
Writing Charms
“Writing charms are plentiful and inexpensive to acquire. They can appear in unexpected places and abound in second-hand markets from estate sales, antique shops, consignment shops, pawn shops, flea markets and garage sales. As symbols, they don’t have to be the real thing. They only have to focus your thoughts on your story.”

Atthys Gage
The Women Men Don’t See, Indeed.
“For those who don’t know, James Tiptree Jr was the pseudonym of author Alice Sheldon. A noted recluse and ‘mystery man’ during the seventies, she published numerous stories in the science fiction magazines of the time, including the story Houston, Houston, Do You Read? which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.”
“A lot of readers weren’t sure what to make of it. No one knew that Tiptree was a woman at that point, though there were apparently some who speculated she might be. Robert Silverberg, in his introduction to the anthology featuring the tale, insisted that Tiptree’s writing had to be the work of a man, that there was “something ineluctably masculine” about it. To his credit, when the truth came out, he congratulated Tiptree for fooling him so successfully and said “You’ve given my head a greatly needed wrenching.”

DJ Lutz
Writing – A Team Sport?
“Gone are the days of waking up at 907 Whitehead Street, dropping a Spanish onion into a glass of chilled gin with the requisite splash of vermouth, putting paper into the typewriter and cranking out an iconic piece of literature as a seven-toed cat wanders between your legs. Not anymore. Today’s writer must do it all: write something worth reading, sell it to an agent or publisher, create a business model and social media platform, market your work and you, sell again, this time to the consumer, and then deal with insurance and taxes.”

Perry Palin
It’s All Personal
“How do we get people to buy our books? In my experience, it’s all personal.”
“I have sold dozens of books through local shops. Not bookstores, but shops where the owner is willing to display my books for a share of the revenue. This requires direct selling to the owner. Telephone contact doesn’t work; I have to walk in the front door with the books in my hands.”
“I was asked to speak at a meeting of a regional environmental group. My presentation was not about my books, but I had a box of them along. I prepared carefully, tried to be entertaining, finished my presentation by reading a story, and sold a few hundred dollars worth of books when the meeting was over. That was a good day for me.”
“None of this easy for me. I have to work hard to sell myself and my books. But it is what works best.”
“I believe that successful marketing, especially for emerging writers, is all personal.”

Jack Penny
Nonsense and Stuff
“Fantasy is a genre that creates a world in its entirety. There may be no gravity perhaps, or maybe people eat milk and drink cheese, but whatever world is created is bound by an established set of rules. What separates nonsense from the more popular genre of fantasy is that there is no bounding set of rules. There is a surprisingly deep, and playfully intellectual nature to nonsense that lifts it above gibberish.”

Sue Ranscht
Selling Your Baby
“Ultimately, marketing your book is far more than posting ads and links and waiting for the royalties to roll in. It’s about connecting with your potential readers and engaging them in your story’s world. We have a pretty good idea what doesn’t work, so take a look at all the successful marketing around you and make it work for you.”

Carl E Reed
POV Explained
“The big deal is that every time you jump into another character’s head to directly reveal the inner life of that character you steal focus from the scene’s focal point character, thus injecting emotional distance into your text by diffusing empathy and muddying the over-all clarity, dramatic pacing and concision of your scene. A clean line or chapter break when switching amongst POVs will help to keep your reader focused, involved and empathizing with the most important person in the narrated scene.”

Mimi Speike
Anything Goes.
“We sit around waiting for the world to come to us, we’re gonna be waiting one damn long time.
To quote Mark Knopfler: It may be a game but I won’t play to lose.
Don’t scorn the old-fashioned basics. Don’t depend on the web to spread the word. Flyers, mailers, I’m going to try it all.
I’m researching bumper stickers. I see not only bumper stickers, but magnets, decals, and labels in a variety of sizes and shapes (like those I Voted Today labels you get on Election Day) for a modest price.”
“I recall that the artist Keith Haring started his career by defacing posters in the Manhattan subway tunnels. Mysterious doodles, unsigned, got him a lot of attention. People were mad to know what the Radiant Babies meant. When he finally revealed himself, the press jumped on it.”

Tom Wolosz
Publishing Through a Start-up Independent Publisher
“The final step was working with the line editor. This guy was not as bad as my first editor, but was close. I’m pretty sure he had written a book himself, which only added to his know-it-all attitude (granted to be a writer, myself included, you need a pretty large ego), and he did make some valuable comments (I do greatly overuse ‘that’) and corrections. Unfortunately, he had absolutely no concept of science fiction. In some cases I politely explained his mistakes, in others I just ignored him. He was also in love with a computer program which counts the number of times a word is used and highlights perceived overuse. I do know I often “fall in love” with words and overuse them, but recognizing this foible I work to correct it. Unfortunately, many times there are only a limited number of choices. My line editor would apparently run to the thesaurus, find a word I had not used and substitute it for mine. The problem was he ignored the first rule of the thesaurus game – when you find a nifty synonym check the dictionary to make sure it really fits. I must admit there were a number of times my annoyance was curbed by my chuckling at the words he chose. In the end I accepted about 10% of his suggestions.”

==========
All falls end and in this universe, as in life, we are all falling. But our first year feels like we are in for a very long fall. I “Whoosh” us all a very Happy and Productive 2017!

Standard