Writer’s Tip o’ the Month

I’d say “writer’s tip o’ the week,” but I know myself too well.

The Tip: When dear, supportive, well-meaning friends and fellow writers tell you that you must enter this or that contest, you must because your book is so perfect and sure to win: Don’t. Especially if there’s a fee involved.

(And I have nothing against fair and reasonable fees, as long as they’re returned in the form of winnings and allow the contest to take place.)

But remember Hugh Howey’s advice in the previous post? Adjusting the order of the three sentences, it was this:  I didn’t waste time promoting my works until they were already selling. I kept writing. This was the best thing I ever did.

837127_question_markEntering contests falls into the promoting category. Many writers will enter. The more prestigious the contest, the more entries. You don’t know the agenda of the contest-runners. You don’t know the tastes of the judges. Unless you have a fortune to tap into for these fees, save your money and avoid the worry.

Keep writing instead.  After all, if you win, you’ll have to figure out a way to incorporate a badge or blurb onto your cover. What a pain!

The Virtue of Hard Work

I’ve kept two articles up on my browser for over a week, because they are so full of insights that any writer could relate to.

LoveAndBiscotti_typewriter_fashion_magazineThe first is from The Atlantic: Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” Author Mega McArdle begins by describing how we often put off writing assignments till the last minute. I don’t, so I felt rather smug.

Until McArdle starts getting into the “why” issue. Writers, she says, often excel early in school. Most of us love to read, and hey, we do have some talent. Sadly, we’re never forced to work hard and therein lies the problem.

I see myself in McArdle’s mild accusations: the quiet kid who breezed through school with A’s even though I didn’t study, and then was blindsided by a job market that expects me to focus, compete, and work hard. In a way, it’s comforting to know that so many others undergo the same challenge. Underachievers Unite! But of course, it’s also dismaying to wonder if I’m just not trying hard enough.

underachievementpenguindemotivatorMcArdle talks about the “fixed mind-set” v. the “growth mind-set,” learning from failure, the imposter syndrome, self-handicapping, and more. All fuel for self-examination.

Yes, the last third of the piece goes off into a rant about kids-these-days, and if that leaves you cold, skip it. She never gets back to talking about writers, so you won’t miss much.

So let’s move on to the next piece. This one is from the Wayfinder blog, by none other than the extraordinarily successful self-and-traditionally published Hugh Howey. “So You Want to Be a Writer” starts with a few paragraphs of very upbeat advice, then lowers the boom: You have to work harder than anyone else. Period.

Aw, man.

25ea0b79875e93580f27aaddbf443d2eHowey says:”Look around. What are other aspiring writers doing? That’s your ground floor. Your minimum. That’s where you begin. Double that. I promise you, this is the easiest path to success.

This is followed by ten detailed steps/priorities to get you working hard. Some are fun, like “Daydream” and “Reading.” Others entail planning and effort. I credit him with getting me to blog again, here and on my HistoryLosAngeles blog. OK, that’s fun too but it requires the aforementioned planning and effort. And in no-nonsense terms, he explains the point of each piece of advice.

I love this unexpected quote, buried in one paragraph: ” … revise, revise, revise, edit, publish, and then get started on your next book. This was the best thing I ever did: I didn’t waste time promoting my works until they were already selling. I kept writing.

Become-a-Writer-They-Said-It-Will-Be-Fun-They-SaidThe italics are mine. That advice goes against what everyone else is saying, and I like it.

What is hard work to you? I’m clear on the topic, once I think about it. I learned from my father, who built things with hammers and nails, who climbed ladders and wore a tool belt, and from my always and ever-scrubbing grandmother, that hard work is physical. You strain and wear yourself out. That’s what good people do. My poor brother and I were such disappointments to them, always sitting at a desk, lazing away, pretending to work.

(I left out my mother. She was a nurse, felled by rheumatoid arthritis. So she got a pass on the physical labor.)

Well, clearly, that was the wrong lesson to cull from my experience, but it’s there in my brain. I’m taking a pickax to it.

Want one more essay to hammer the point home? Don’t mind reading the F word? “25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing” reminds us that no golden tickets exist to guide you to publishing success. (So do the other articles, actually, but this one by Chuck Wendig really hones in on that.) Barnes & Noble, Penguin Random House, the Super Agents — none of them have a secret formula in their back pocket. If they did, all their books would be hogging the spots the bestseller list, right?

tumblr_n4terbv0yv1svzbplo1_1280There is no trick to master. Even writing a terrific book doesn’t guarantee you’ll find your audience, although personally, I think that is the best strategy.

And yes, the title of the post (25 MORE Hard Truths, etc.) implies that there was an earlier piece on the Terrible Minds blog. I leave it to you  to search that one out on  your own, you glutton for punishment, you.


Making a Living of Art


Sierra Madre Art Fair

Sierra Madre Art Fair

Artists, like writers, come in every shape and size and ability. We need our geniuses, like Picasso and Dali, as well as our crowd-pleasers (Thomas Kincaid comes to mind). We also need the run-of-the-mill men and women who fill local galleries or who hang their work on pop-ups at craft fairs. They are talented and unique, though they might never be famous.

An artist can be passionately creative and productive, but that doesn’t mean folks will line up to buy the artist’s work, or pay top prices. Consider Van Gogh. Or even Ed Wood.

Being dedicated to artistic pursuits may not pay the rent. So choices are made. What are you willing to give up to keep creating? Can you live without stability as long as you can paint? Or is that too difficult, and must you find a paying job? What if you have children? Writers face the same issues, but we have an advantage: we don’t have to pay for or store supplies like paint and canvas, or stone, kilns, lenses, etc. Writing can be compact and cheap.

Writers and artists have creativity in common, though. The muse makes varying  demands. She can be narcissistic as hell, or sweet and self-sacrificing. Every artist is different, and copes as best they can.

100_9955One artist  I met at a music/craft fair, is an example of dedication. She waits for hours — sometimes days — outside a particular tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific or the wolf enclosure at the LA County Zoo, waiting for just the right moment and a fantastic photograph. She then takes her camera home, crops the picture, plays with the light and color balance, and has a dozen copies printed up on card stock — whatever she can afford. These go on display at friends’ shops and studios, or they’re hung at booths at local craft fairs. While she waits for folks to show some interest and fork through her different prints, she crochets little bags in fuchsia or teal that exactly fit the contours of a Kindle or iPad.

Her work is good, but the card stock she prints on is not going to get her into galleries. She sells her photos for seven to ten dollars each. Does she get by? Last I heard, her membership with the Aquarium had expired and she couldn’t afford to renew it. Her grown, employed children were loaning her bits of money and giving her rides, but she didn’t want to burden them. In other words, she is not getting by, not at all.

But she’s doing what she loves, right? And not knowing where she’ll be sleeping next week is part of the fun. No, it’s not. Couch-surfing loses its charm when you’re sixty.

Of course, I know another artist who produces beautiful photographs and sells gallery-quality prints for seventy dollars each at ritzier art shows. This second lady is about the same age, is also single and has grown children, but has never lacked a steady income, a home, or a car. Her nails are manicured. She charms customers with her style and grace, while the first lady looks dumpy in clothes that don’t quite match. That has no bearing on the artistic merit of the photographs they take, but it sure makes a difference in where they sell their photos and what price they get.


Photo by Bernard Fallon (BernardFallon.com) of the 2011 Arty Party .

So what is a fair price for art? Is it an hourly wage for the time spent in creating the work of art? Is it living expenses for the month the artist spent working on the opus? Or should that figure be divided by the number of artworks produced in that month? Are there bonuses for the unusual, the especially brilliant pieces?

I can’t answer these bothersome questions! But I look around, and the answer I see in the world is depressing.

How do artists survive? Some are just lucky and have inherited, made, or married a comfortable income. Nothing wrong with that; I wish we all were so dusted with fortune.

For the rest, there are old-fashioned patrons: the type you read about in history books and biographies. Nobility, even kings, back in Mozart’s day, or the Peggy Gugenheims of the 20th century, supported promising artists while their creative juices percolated. They are rare these days, but they do exist. Non-profits and associations can offer grants for projects or living expenses for a semester or two for those who qualify as artists-in-residence. Some artists are good at jumping through these hoops; most are not. I will hazard the guess that the more creative the artist, the less skilled they are at complying with administrative requirements. That might be where a patron comes in handy. Otherwise, the artist’s life is precarious.

Precarious, in this case, is an adjective meaning you don’t know where you’ll be living next month, but you embrace the knowledge that life is full of surprises. It may or may not be realistic, but if it gets you through the day, that’s enough.


On Re-Reading the Witches of Karres

Returning to the books we enjoyed decades ago is fun. Trust me on that, even if you haven’t got the decades under your belt yet.

Recently, for the first time in 30 years, I raced through The Lord of the Rings (although I had read it eight times, starting in 8th grade) and I cried. All the Harry Potter books still keep me up, muttering “one more page, just one.” Then there’s A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, with gorgeous descriptions that I never appreciated the first time through, and Secret History by Donna Tartt–which my book club has not quite forgiven me for but which I loved as much as I did in the 90s.


From the internet–I wish I still had my copy but I don’t.

The Witches of Karres is the book that hooked me on science fiction, somewhere around seventh grade. It was published in 1966, and I bought or was given this edition back then, along with a similarly designed  copy of Past Master and one other tome that is lost to time. Both books are considered classics now, but try finding someone who’s read them lately. Just try.

Their loss.

The plot: In a vast and populous universe at some vast, unspecified future (we are told that 300,000 years ago, everything was back on old Yarthe) Pausert, a small time freighter captain, ends up saving three kids from slavery–and as they have magical powers, they end up saving him from the dull life he would have returned to on his plodding old planet, Nikkeldepain. Our captain and Goth, one of the children, zoom from adventure to adventure, stopping at pirate worlds, relling vatches, and daring the unknown and frightening passage of the Chaladoor while evading cannibalistic aliens, double agents of the Empire, and encroaching worm-like invaders.

The story contains elements that would show up in  both Star Trek and Star Wars later. There’s a bit of Han Solo in Captain Pausert, whom we must imagine is handsome because he is, after all, blond. He’s enough of a lug and a goofball to be endearing, but he’s also brave and seems to have an innate affinity for the magical forces that the witches of Karres wield so ably. (I will bet you anything that George Lucas read this book in the 60s too.)

I wondered if The Witches of Karres could possibly be as entertaining as I thought it was. I’d read it, after all, in my twelfth  year. My reading up till then consisted of fairy tales, biographies of saints and heroes, and my mother’s collection of Earl Stanley Gardner mysteries, along with a few teenage romances–but let me assure you that teenage romances in the mid-60s peaked with a tender kiss at the end, nothing more. My entertainment demands were not high, and I was a sci-fi virgin.

I was seduced, big time, and I’ve never gotten over it. Sci-fi, for me, is best when the science blurs into magic–thanks to James H. Schmitz and this one-trick pony of a book. (Other authors, Mercedes Lackey among them, have written sequels, but Schmitz never returned to these characters.) Would I still be dazzled?

51GpYCXz8vL._SX276_BO1,204,203,200_Yes. Big time. Thrilled, on the level of finding photos of your favorite Christmas that you thought had been lost forever.

I recalled scenes and lines so clearly. I remember being the kid who read those lines for the first time. The kid who, if you must know, had a new mini-length hot pink jumper in thick double-knit polyester, and two psychedelic-patterned nylon shirts to wear with it. I was that chic.  The kid who dreamed of dating Davy Jones. I also owned a set of Slicker frosted lipsticks in pale shades that horrified my mother, she said, because they made me look dead. I thought that was cool, and the only Goth I’d ever heard of back then was the little witch in the book.

But that’s me. Addressing the book as a 21st century reviewer, let me assure you that the story moves fast, there’s action and magic on every page, and the characters feel real, as real as Kirk or Leia.

As a writer, I notice that there are darn few adjectives. Schmitz learned English as a young man; his native language was German. I do not know if that plays into his prose, but how refreshing to not see a list of descriptive words before every noun: handsome, svelte, graceful, lovely, striking, piercing, blue, green, whatever. Instead we see action. “Something small and lean and bonelessly supple, dressed in dark jacket and leggings, came across the thick carpets of Wansing’s store and stood behind the captain. This one might be about nine or ten.” That’s our first view of Goth. “Her nose was short and her chin was pointed.” Even if you don’t like passive voice, it makes a nice change here.

In the new edition of the book, Eric Flint is listed as Editor. I don’t know what his contribution is but have to assume it’s sizable, since his name is on the cover. As I’m recognizing scenes and dialogue from nearly fifty years ago, I’m guessing he may have cut less memorable parts of the book out and tightened things up. Whatever he did, though, was not intrusive. The fun and innocence of the book I remember is all here.

Anyone who likes science fiction will like this book, I think, as well as anyone who likes fantasy. It’s especially appropriate for those of us who are weary of novels that morph into series, or of dystopian futures that revolve around achingly beautiful young women and the gorgeous heroes who love them.

Sorry, did I start to rant?

The Witches of Karres is highly recommended. Just relax and have fun.



Forget Book Marketing 101–There Are PreRequisites!

Marketing is not for wimps or the lazy.

I’m a bit of both. I’m so screwed.

The Almighty Mailing List

I’ve read (and, admittedly, skimmed and half-read—lazy, remember?) a few books and several articles on marketing. They all agree that a mailing list is vital. That’s how you reach your customers. An author’s best marketing tool (other than a dynamite book) is her/his mailing list. Period.

mailing-list-iconBut how do you build that list? One book recommends pop-up ads on your website that can’t be ignored. Actually, more than one recommends that although they describe the process differently: generate giveaways, great incentives, videos, etc., so that people will want more and will join your mailing list–which pretty much implies the pop-up.

But there are a few steps before having and sending to a mailing list.

The first step is, of course, to create your mailing list on a service like MailChimp. MailChimp is free, up to 2,000 subscribers. So start that account and put your mother and best friend and your gmail address on it. You’ve got 1,997 spaces left before you have to pay, yippee!

What’s the second step?

Where do all those other names come from?

Remember, anyone who gets an email from you through MailChimp (or another service) can opt out. They can unsubscribe and will do so if you waste their time, so entering a bunch of names at random is probably not worth the effort.

How do you pack that list with people who actually want what you’re offering—i.e., your audience?miracle

That’s the fuzzy part. Like this cartoon.

Why don’t these marketing gurus tell you that part?

Well, there are a few reasons.

Everyone’s audience is different and will be found in different places.

The person who wrote a marketing book for authors has found his/her audience–you–but unless you’re also writing a marketing book for authors, your audience is hiding somewhere else.

And if you are writing a marketing book for authors, why are you reading this?

What did you write? A memoir or a zombie romance? Readers of those books are all over the place. Your job to figure out how to lure them to your website and make them want to sign up for more of what you’ve got to give, and only you can do that.

You must figure out where to reach your potential readers. It’s not obvious or easy. For example, when I managed to get the Historical Novel Society to review my book, I thought I had it made! Where else would readers of historical novels go, but to there?  The review was wonderful, exceeding my fondest hopes. But when it appeared, sales did not jump–not even a little.

trapWhat to do? Well, one idea is to take to social media. And that’s a suggestion, not a guarantee of anything. However, many of your readers will be on Twitter and Facebook, so it makes sense to connect with them there.

Think of social media–Facebook, your blog, Tweets, Pinterest, the works—as play. Fill your accounts with posts and pictures of fun things that your target audience would love. 1970s trivia for the memoir, for example. Photographs. Mini-reviews of books in the same genre. Share and Link to clever articles or merchandise on the topic. Follow everyone who follows you, and follow everyone posting on anything peripheral to your topic.

downloadYour website is your keystone. Use the other media accounts to entice readers there on occasion, so they can enjoy your blog post about mood rings or mid-century zombie films and be willing to sign up for more via the pop-up.

Why else don’t those marketing books tell you how to find your audience?

I’m gonna throw out two guesses here.

First, because the panorama of social media sites is constantly changing–just like the self-publishing industry—advice is going to be old by the time it’s tested. The tech-savvy (Hugh Howey comes to mind) have an enormous advantage, but luck plays a part too. Rather than rely on what worked a couple of years ago, you may be better off to poke around on your own. Try Googling “book marketing tips for Indies” to start with, just to get ideas.

The second guess is this: You will learn a lot—about yourself, your audience and about marketing–when you figure it out yourself.

character-buildingYou can’t have everything handed to you. You have to do some of the work, because it builds character.

Did I really write that? Even my Irish grandmother could not say such a phrase without sputtering with laughter.

Look, the marketing books tell you what the end product should be: a mailing list that you can use to reach your fans. They tell you how to use it. They tell you how important it is.

But where those addresses on the list come from is up to you. That’s the part you have to figure out, for the big reason above: each book is different and finding the audience is going to be different.

But in finding that audience, painstaking though it may be, you will connect with what works for you, and there is a lot of value in that.

Don’t Write for Free

Don’t. Even though I’m kinda doing that now because no one is paying me to write this blog.

But don’t write for free. Don’t give it away.

LoveAndBiscotti_typewriter_fashion_magazineI have wanted to write this for months, years. I was afraid of offending people, or of being a hypocrite because I am a far cry from the successful, highly-paid writer idealized in the media. Maybe that’s all for the best; maybe you don’t want to listen to someone who writes for $3-a-word glossies and knows every editor in the Big Apple.

Those kind of writers are intimidating.

Last month, I went to a panel discussion on essays. The four panelists, all women, were lovely people and, I’m sure, competent writers. One had been paid  $8,000 for an essay in her area of expertise. . . . in the 80s. Now they are giving it away. Seriously. Someone asked them how much they got paid to write their essays–their mommy-blog posts, their art posts, their brilliant bon mots. They looked at each other and admitted that they didn’t. Get paid. that is. A couple had self-published some books that had been profitable, but gee, you had to write for free just to get people to notice you–


Do not write for free.  Google that phrase and you will find many find authors who will explain why. Harlan Ellison recorded a rant that went viral a few years ago, featuring the phrase, “You’ve gotta pay me, dammit!”

downloadYou don’t ask a chef or a plumber to work for free. Why should a writer?

If you can’t find outlets for your essays, you are not looking hard enough. Google. Yes, the print magazines and newspapers are drying up and have been for years. But . . . . There are hundreds of websites that pay writers.

Why did those nice ladies on the panel not know this?  I suspect because they were not full-time writers. One stayed at home with her baby while her husband earned a paycheck. The other three were in academia. Yup, professors who marketed their work on the side, and getting close to retirement age.

They weren’t hungry. They didn’t have to write in order to buy groceries or pay bills. So (this is true for the older three) as their print markets dried up, they didn’t put a lot of effort into finding replacements. All four were looking at future books, thinking that their free writing builds them a platform.

working-from-home-beanbagMaybe it does. But in the meantime, they work other jobs.

Writing is a profession that sustains a minimalist lifestyle, if not an extravagant one. One example: a couple who are raising two children in New York on the paychecks they each earn from writing. They are talented, energetic, and don’t waste their time.

Those three qualities are key. Talent, energy, and–I’l rephrase–discipline. Many writers support themselves well on their writing, but you have to push yourself.

You can’t sit around all day writing blog posts or watching the Weather Channel’s team coverage of Storm Juno. (Bad Vickey, bad!) You have to get to work.

Looking for that job is the first step in any profession, and it’s part of your day as a writer. Every time you enjoy an article online, notice who hosted it. Go to the site’s home. Are there submission guidelines or a tab that says Write For Us? Do they list payment?

freelance_writerMaybe you need confidence. Could you see yourself writing a blog post or short article for fifty dollars? Here’s a starter list of sites that pay modestly (but they still pay!) for guest blogs or articles. Google for additional lists.

Many companies offer much more for essays. Christian Science MonitorModern Love and other columns in the New York Times. Chicken Soup for the Soul, Slate and Salon for more journalistic endeavors. And if you like writing about entertainment, movies, and stars, the possibilities are legion.

Do not let anyone–including Adriana Huffington–make you believe that the effort you put into crafting an article is valueless. Writers deserve to be paid. If we all started insisting on it, maybe we’d all start reaping the benefits.



Permanent Links to Books

urlshortIf you are tweeting and posting on Facebook about your book, you probably include a link to Amazon so that people can buy said book. Right? And maybe you even used something like tinyurl or bit.ly to shorten that link.

But–has this ever  happened? You check the link a few weeks down the line, and it doesn’t work. Maybe it takes you to someone else’s site or book, or maybe it goes nowhere. Bad enough that you stumble on that little flaw–but what about your potential customers who wanted to see  your book? How long ago did the link stop working? How many sales did you lose?

One friend, believing her bit.ly or tiny links to be secure, had them printed on her business cards.  Within a week, folks told her the links did work.

I don’t know why this happens. Whatever muse looks over Indie writers must have spurned a techno-nerd satyr, and this is his revenge. Just guessing.

urlgoogleWhat to do about it? Well, I have been assured that Google has the answer. Google came out with  a url shortener years ago, and Google’s is the shortener that my latest advice tells me to use.

For the record, my Boomer Book of Christmas Memories is for sale at Amazon, and the link is http://goo.gl/eHlwXv

Death Speaker: A Novel of Ancient Gaul can be found on Amazon by following this link: http://goo.gl/gtV7VQ

I’ll come back here in a month and test those urls again.  If they don’t work I’ll bitch and moan because that’s what we do when we stumble over a tiny glitch in the amazing technological resources that are offered up for our use for free.


PR for Dummies (Like Me)

Press-Release-IconSome writers come from a PR background. Such writers are fond of saying things like “I could write a press release in my sleep!”–which may explain why most press releases make dull reading.

(In this case, PR means Public Relations even though it could conceivably stand for Press Release. Why use an acronym that could be interpreted as two different things in the same industry? Dunno, ask a PR person.)

For the rest of us, though, press releases are a mysterious form of communications that people used to pay a lot of money for. In Ye Olden Tymes, those seeking publicity went to a PR firm or expert, who composed a press release and sent it to a mailing list of thousands–thousands!–of eagerly receptive media moguls. Or so they would have you believe.

new_way_media_center_press_room_icon_press_release_px208x150_enToday, there are as many folks telling you that hiring PR firms to send PRs “is a waste of money” as there are supporters and PR firms trying to drum up business and get paid to write more PRs. Yes, I do expect you to follow that sentence, but admittedly this PR stuff can be confusing.

Fortunately my amazing book designer did a webinar last year that Explained It All to me.

As far as books and writers are concerned, a well-crafted press release is simply an article in disguise. You are sending a harried editor an article that s/he doesn’t have to write. All they have to do is pretend to edit it, cut a paragraph or two* to fit their needs, and run with it.

Step by step, here is how you should write a press release about your own book or signing event. Here, PR stands for press release.

  1. First, it’s 2015, almost. The PR will be emailed, so get the email address of the editor of your local paper or magazine.
  2. Subject: Do NOT use “Press Release” as a subject. Ever. (Yes, people do this. Ask any harried editor.) Use instead a practical phrase like “Author John Doe to Sign Books” or “New Thriller from Local Author”
  3. Start your PR with Dear –. The editor is human. Use their first name; it sounds friendly.
  4. Explain briefly that you are sending the editor information about your book signing/new release, that you hope will be deemed newsworthy. Then skip a line.
  5. Suggest a headline in bold font.
  6. Write about your event exactly as you’d like it to appear in the newspaper.
  7. Since you don’t know how much space the editor might have for your piece, pack the first two paragraphs full of information. Then relax and include some fluff, including a quote or two from yourself or a reviewer. The editor can cut these as needed.
  8. I like to end the article with **** because I’ve been told this is what professional journalists do–or used to do. At any rate, it clearly marks the end of the article part of your email. Now you go back to addressing the editor in a conversational form.
  9. Finish in a friendly way, sign your name, and include your email address, phone number, a link to your website, a link to the book on Amazon, and whatever other information the editor might need.
  10. Spell check, attach a jpg of the book cover, and send.

It may not be exactly the way a PR professional would send it, but it gets the job done.

*cut a paragraph or two: One trick I’ve learned with articles is to always insert a paragraph or two that can be cut without affecting the rest of the article. That way, the editor feels that s/he has done their job, but your great ending remains intact.


Signings and Lectures and Slides, Oh My!

100_9157On Thursday, November 13, I’ll team up with two other writers to sign and sell books at Golden Cove Center in Palos Verdes–right where Hawthorne meets PV Drive South. The event will include a reading and drawing lesson from Beth Whittenbury, author, and Janelle Carbajal, illustrator, of the story Just Love Him, I Guess. That’s at 3-4:30 PM.

Then on Saturday, November 15, we’ll be back at the same location, sans Janelle, to sign books from 2-4 PM. Here is the flyer with the address: Kids flyer. It’s at the Postal Center, a bit hidden.

Beth will also have her legal books. I’ll be armed with The Boomer Book of Christmas Memories and Death Speaker, a novel of Ancient Gaul.

Jean Shrive will sign her YA novel, The Einstein Solution, a story based on her memories of her Princeton, NJ childhood during World War II, when she lived down the street from Albert Einstein.

But wait, there’s more!  I’m also speaking at the Torrance Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance, CA (my home town), on November 22 at 2 PM. The talk will include a Power Point slide show of Baby Boomer holiday trivia: aluminum trees, songs from the 1950s, and toys like Barbie, GI Joe, and Slinky. Plus a door prize! Flyer: Boomer Family Christmas

Beth and I also have smaller, private events scheduled, like a big December 3rd Gift Fair and Peninsula High School, and an Artsy Party in Palos Verdes on December 14th. If you want details on any of these, let me know through the contact page.

I know that those of you with the PR Gene will roll your eyes, but I am excited!

Merrily We Market Along (Amazon, etc. Part 2)

Advertising sign on wooden postThe trouble with reading a good book about using Amazon (or Twitter or Facebook) is that by the time you’ve finished the book the platform has changed.

Amazon now has something called Themes or Browse Categories. They show up on the left whenever you start looking for fiction books. Go ahead, try it. Go to Amazon and type in “Thrillers” or “Historical Romance.” By the time I post this they may be appearing next to non-fiction books as well.

I’m told these categories on the left reflect what people are searching for in books. So the savvy marketer will use some of those phrases as Keywords for their books.

That bit of advice–and much more–came from Penny Sansivieri, the Author Marketing Expert. She appeared on a panel one night and  I went.

(Digression:  I love living in Los Angeles where every week I can find a free-or nearly-free talk that improves me as an author and marketer!  And I don’t keep these events to myself; you can find them all on the WritersCalendarLA.com. )

Moving on:

Book_JeffWalkerBeth and I are now using Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreamsby Jeff Walker as our playbook.

It’s all about the preparation. Launch tells you how to build up a mailing list, send out enticing emails with offers that make people WANT to be on your mailing list, how to engage with potential customers–basically how to structure a product launch. The work is all in the buildup, and the launch itself (along with wildly successful sales, right?) comes at the very end.

If that interests you, we strongly suggest you get the print book so you can flip back and forth and stick post it papers all over. Beth says the videos are great and round out the information; I’m a week or two behind her so I haven’t viewed them yet.

Christmas Coffee and Book.1200.1618However, I have managed to get one of my books into a gift basket, sold with coffee by a wonderful Amazon store, Aloha Island Coffee.

And that was a lot easier than trying to read about Amazon algorithms or follow the steps for a product launch. How did I do it?

I go to a couple of writers’ group meetings regularly. One of the managers of Aloha Island Coffee also goes. She’s a very nice person, and we got to talking. That’s all.

Reminds me of the time writer John Vorhaus talked to another group, a few years ago, and mentioned that he once found himself talking to a previously unknown in-law at a family party. Turns out the in-law had recording equipment and wanted to get into recording and selling books.

John pursued the idea with this newfound relative, and now many of his mysteries (The Albuquerque Turkey) and nonfiction books (Decide to Play Great Poker: A Strategy Guide to No-limit Texas Hold Em) are audiobooks–which would not have happened otherwise.

The Lesson: For all our studying, sometimes the best marketing ideas just show up. All we have to do is talk to someone and make a connection.