We’re little more than a month out from the publishing of The Trust
and I’m starting to realize I have a lot to learn about book promotion.
What I have learned can be boiled down to one word.
Of course reducing any idea to a single word means using an approach similar to that of a chef when an ingredient is reduced for incorporation into a dish. You concentrate the ingredient and then blend it to spread its flavor to the entirety of the dish.
This is the same approach for the presence I mention above. But of course like the ingredient in cooking you don’t want to overdo it. In other words you don’t want to over saturate and risk overpowering and ruining the dish. Balance becomes the key.
Let’s take Twitter
for instance. If you are going to put yourself out there on Twitter, and I think you should, you have to balance your presence through your tweets. Too many and you become over saturated and ineffective. Too few and no one will know you’re there. You’ll be like the kid at the high school dance leaning against the wall – watching. He can tell you what’s going on, but no one will know him and chances are he won’t be doing much dancing. If you are on Twitter you want to be in the dance.
Websites are another area where presence is important. Where presence should be a simple concept but an opportunity.
I crave information. If I’m curious about something, I hit Google at a minimum. For instance, I’ve been reading a couple of writers lately that I simply love. With each of them I wanted to learn more so I fired up Google. For one author there was no website at all. For the other there was only a brief blurb on the publisher’s website. I should also mention these two authors have larger publishers so budget shouldn’t be a problem. Their lack of web presence intrigues me.
Candidly, I was shocked at the lack of the web presence.
I dug further, no Twitter for either. Neither has a Facebook page.
I guess there’s a theory that if you’re big enough then you don’t need any additional help, but while these two authors have larger houses, read budgets, I would’ve thought websites were no-brainers. From checking around by asking friends these two authors are not unknowns, but are certainly not as wide spread as if they had perhaps a bit of a web presence.
It seems to me that a website is the logically the first place to start in establishing an online presence. You get to have complete control over what people see.
With a simple link
you can tell people where to go to learn about you, see what you are up to, read an excerpt of your writing, or, gasp, buy your book.
Used to be it cost a good deal to set up and maintain a website, but those days are long gone. There are loads of places out there, I like Weebly.com
but look around and see what works for you.
Someone once told me that it is difficult to have someone tell you “No” unless you ask them a question.
Same concept here with the online presence. If you want people to be able to learn more about you, and maybe buy a book or two, give them a way to find you – give the several ways to find you. If you’re not there and people come looking they won’t come back and they certainly won’t send other’s your way.
So as long as you’re reading this, why don’t you stop by my website
and read a sample
or maybe buy
a copy of The Trust while you’re there.
When I was a kid I enjoyed spelling different words. Mississippi was one in particular I loved from the sing-songy approach “M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter, I…”
When a recommendation came up on my Nook that was just that, I was intrigued and later amazed.
Tom Franklin’s tale of murder, mystery and personal conflict spans several decades of small town Southern America and will hopefully not be his last tale.
I grew up in a small, one stoplight southern town so the dialect, the characters and setting were a trip through not only the past but my past. Franklin’s ability to connect with the reader, to let them walk into the story, was amazing.
The story, set in rural Mississippi, focuses on the present day reality for two former high school friends, Larry Ott and Silas Jones. I should point out Ott is white and Jones is black – important because during their time in high school race matters weren’t always an easy topic.
Ott, when in high school, was an awkward teen with few friends, save Jones. In the present day Ott is infamous. Infamous because, though never convicted, literally everyone is convinced he is responsible for the disappearance and likely death of a female high school classmate. The sole basis for Ott being suspected was that he was really an odd kid and had likely been the last to see her.
Since the time of the disappearance 25 years past, he has been known as “Scary Larry” and has been the town pariah living his days in a mix of painful memories and efforts to just be left alone.
Of course his efforts to be left alone become impossible when another female goes missing and the legal crosshairs fall, naturally, on Ott. After all, he was a suspect 25 years ago, why not now?
Jones, now the local constable, and not without a few demons of his own, ends up investigating the new disappearance. He’s torn between his suspicions and his knowledge of the past.
Franklin guides the reader through the present investigation with frequent visits to the time of the first disappearance. We learn of dark secrets relating not only to the first disappearance, but that also relate to Ott and Jones’ past relationship.
While the present disappearance gets us going, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is really about several mysteries, some of which the reader won’t even realize are mysteries until well into the book.
Franklin is, simply put, a master storyteller.
There was once a time when the term literary fiction caused my eyes to glaze over, but no longer, particularly with Tom Franklin. His prose, the word choice, the character development, the dialogue, all verge on the brink of perfection. The tale flows effortlessly.
Through the book Franklin doses out, at just the right moment, tidbits of information that weave the tale into a complete tapestry that suddenly I found myself staring out in wonder as to how it had been so elegantly completed, largely without my realizing it.
I’m a musician when I’m not a writer and I get frustrated when I see a great guitar player. My first thought is always to give up the guitar, but then my frustration turns to inspiration and I work harder on my playing.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was like this in the literary sense. I read it and wanted to stop writing. But in the end, it has inspired me to work even harder as a writer.
I’ll be back to reread this one many times.
I went to sleep on January 20, 2011 to little fanfare. I was at a conference staying in a nice hotel on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Oddly enough there was talk of snow for the weekend. I awoke on the morning of Friday, January 21, 2011 and it was pretty much the same as any other morning. That is with one minor exception.
On the 21st my book, The Trust
, was published.
I began writing it in 2004 and it had been a part of my life for a long time. There were times I’d all but convinced myself it would never see any ink that didn’t come from my home printer.
However on the 21st that changed.
Now all things considered the 21st was an arbitrary date. I’d known the publication date weeks in advance, had told people about it, had a website, a twitter account, a blog and the list goes on. Even with all of this, I was curious if the 21st would be any different.
Lots of people went well out of their way to congratulate me on the publication, but there wasn’t really a lot that changed on the 21s.
Or so I thought.
Since that day, not a day has passed I haven’t talked to at least several people about the book. Not a day has passed that I haven’t been curious what the book was doing on Amazon. Not a day has passed that I haven’t been on Twitter or my webpage. I’ve started planning events for the book, I’ve visited bookstores, I’ve become all to familiar with the post office workers from sending out books to reviewers or others.
I’ve pretty much done everything but write. Note to self here, I have to work on this and soon.
The biggest change I’ve noticed is that now I tend to look at virtually every situation I may find myself apart of as an opportunity to network my book.
I’ve also learned that I am and likely will be the best marketing tool I ever could have.
No one told me this when I was sitting in random hotel lobbies all across the southeastern United States writing the book. However, I find I really enjoy all that I’ve been doing since the book came out.
I believe that is perhaps the biggest thing I could pass along to someone just starting out on writing career. Start thinking early about your presence. Stake out your own little corner of cyberspace and make it a friendly place and a place that people will enjoy visiting.
I’ve found that alcohol is a good thing to have on hand. Writers and readers seem to like to take a drink.
If you make your patch of cyberspace a place that people like to visit and work to spread the work, I’m starting to see that they will come back and might just bring friends.
So start spreading the word. After all, if you don’t who’s going to want to stop by.
So long as you’re here, feel free to leave with a copy of The Trust
I’ve decided to start dropping in a few book reviews in the blog. It’s still going to be devoted to my writing, but I read so much, I figured why not.
And with that my thoughts on Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.
John Wilkes Booth was a vampire. Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter.
It really makes sense if you think about it.
The Great Emancipator had such a hard time with the South because the vampires, in large part, the gentrified Southern plantation owners, needed slaves for food.
Interesting premise for a book that at first blush looks to be a train wreck waiting to happen.
However, I think you may be pleasantly surprised. In any event, I was.
The book starts out from the perspective of the author bemoaning his mundane existence in New York and we are not talking NYC rather rural New York. He works the most boring of jobs that is until one day a mysterious stranger appears. Ultimately the stranger reveals that not only is he a vampire, but that he was a close acquaintance of none other than Abraham Lincoln and he has the goods to prove it.
Then the tale begins based upon a journal that takes us back to a first person account of Abe’s life from that of a young man on the frontier. It also traces the history of vampires in America. Seems those pesky bloodsuckers have been around as long as the white man has been trying to set up shop in America.
Abe had early run ins with the vampire and though his first person account of his life is not exactly an exact fit with the version of Honest Abe as most know, it is close enough to be followed without too much suspension of disbelief – well except for the vampires.
But that makes it a lot of fun.
I’m a huge history buff and in particular the period of our history leading up to and around Lincoln’s time as the 16th president and even with this I found the tale to be an edge of your seat page-turner. The book does a great job weaving in the vampire hunting with this chapter of our nation’s history.
The traditional historical accounts of Lincoln tell his history from his time as a poor country boy who struggled into the law and into politics only to end up leading the Country through what was then and is now, at least in my opinion, one of the most critical of times as a nation. However, there is not a lot of personalization of Lincoln in this history.
In this tale the character of Lincoln comes alive albeit as a vampire hunter. While we have a tale of fantasy here and the persona of Lincoln is based on what we know from the history books, the character of Abraham Lincoln takes on a different element - a class A 1980’s action movie bad-ass!
And as an added bonus, there are photos providing documented evidence of the vampires.
I often wonder when I write a blog
entry if it’s the title that draws the readers or if they are showing up as a sole result of the title of the blog.
I guess we’ll find out today.
That having been said, I am not going to do as seen before and lead with the title “sex” and then not talk about it.
So about sex.
Ever since my debut novel, The Trust
, was published, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the sex scenes. And when I say a lot, I mean literally every other person I talk to asks me about the topic.
The main question I get about it is how do I write sex scenes.
The easy answer is, I don’t.
When writing The Trust there were several points in the storyline that ended in the bedroom. It was clear the sexual tension was building between the characters to a point of needing resolution (careful and deliberate word choice there).
The first time this happened it occurred between the main character and his paralegal. During the build up it was clear there was an attraction between them. The main character did not act on it for a number of reasons – he was coming off of a life changing prior relationship, he was the woman’s employer, she was younger and he didn’t want to think automatically that she was interested in the older man to name a few. Finally however, he explored what many have described as the obvious and ended up alone with her.
The outcome of this encounter was critical to the rest of the book, but I won’t provide any spoilers.
There was another character with whom the main character became romantically attracted and the topic of sex became more of an issue to their relationship. Since these two characters are going to be together through at least one more book, I was careful in how their first intimate encounter occurred (and how later intimate moments were handled.)
According to some I was perhaps too careful.
However, as to writing an actual sex scene, I tried a vast number of different approaches. Oh my, the results. Some were comical, some disastrous and some just down right bad.
In the end, I adopted a different approach. I’ve decided I shouldn’t write sex scenes with particulars – particularly since I frequently write in first person. To handle the scene effectively I think I would have had to change to a different point of view, that or make it entirely about the main character and I can’t see that working with her persona.
Rather than taking an approach where the graphic description prevailed, I chose to build up the tension between the characters to set the stage for what would happen behind closed doors and let the reader fill in the gaps with their own imagination.
This works for me. It may work for you, it may not. There are a lot of writers out there who can craft a spellbinding passage that leaves one shuttering – however, that isn’t me. As I have said time and time again – if it works don’t fix it and for me this works and is how I’ll approach the in the future.
Oh, and if you’ve made it this far I would love it if you would consider buying my book
In advance of my book, The Trust
, being published I dove, well, stepped, into the deep end of the book marketing pool with the goal being to let the world know about my book. There also wasn’t a lot of planning on my part.
I spent a lot of time working on a website – you can find it here
. As I was working through this process a friend asked me what my blog was going to focus upon. My response?
“What blog?” (This blog
, by the way.)
After that comment and a bit of looking around, I decided a blog could be fun.
It’s been a great experience.
However, as I am learning, with every aspect of this writing business, having something, whether it be a book, a blog or a twitter feed – just having it out there alone is not enough. You have to tell people about it and hope they come by.
I found this entertaining, even akin to multi-level marketing. After all, one of the reasons I have the blog is to market the book, but it seems I also have to market the blog. However, I have found some neat ways to get the word on my blog out.
Here are a few of my initial things that I have been doing that seem to be working.
1 – Make it relevant. I post to my blog twice a week. On Mondays I try to share some experience about my life as a writer. On Friday I look to publish something to help with the process of writing or publishing. If people start reading it, they will expect there to be new content up.
2 – Make it fun to read. That means interesting and, I certainly hope on my part both fun and – generally – grammatically correct.
3 – Keep it focused and concise. For me that means keeping it under 600 words.
4 – I visit other blogs (and participate on them)- I never used to read blogs, now I spend time doing it several times a week and I enjoy it.
5 – I shamelessly self-market. If I don’t do it who will? Twitter, other blogs, pingomatic
, and where ever else I can find a place to get the word out there. I’ve had some ups and downs and have a few thoughts on what works, well, at least have worked for me. I‘ve also made some mistakes and have learned from them. If I can help someone out and not have them make the same mistake, then all the better.
Now in addition to this, one other method I have found for spreading the word on my blog is by having several different homes for the blog. For instance, my main blog is on my website, but I also have a feed to the blog on several other sites – Amazon
, and redroom.com
. I use an RSS feed and when I update my website blog the others are updated as well.
Now I hope that one day people will be falling all over themselves to get to my website, but that day isn’t today. However, I know that people are on other sites and If my blog has a home there then there are just that many more chances for someone to see it. If they do they just might come back.
Well, at least I hope so.
Oh, and if you’ve made it this far I would love it if you would consider buying my book
I’m a planner.
Vacations? I know where I am going, where I am staying, the things I want to do on vacation and likely even the days I’ll be doing them while I travel.
Dinner? I know today what I am having tomorrow.
My day? I know what I’m doing Monday of next week.
My first novel? Zero planning.
I don’t know if I would suggest this to other writers as a method, but it worked for me. I started with nothing more than one scene.
For a few months an idea kept playing itself out in my head.
The Executor of a will comes into an attorney’s office and asks to see him. The Executor presents the attorney a will and demands to know why not only is the attorney’s name in the will, but why the will directed the attorney handle the legal work for the estate. The Executor is also curious about why the will directs that the attorney receive the contents of a safe deposit box after the work on the will was completed. To complicate matters, no one, knew of the safety deposit box’s existence or what may be inside.
That set up expanded into a scene where the attorney and the Executor have it out, so to speak. This worked well for me as an initial starting point to set some tension and immediately set the stage for some degree of conflict in the book. It’s a good thing since all I had was the initial idea. There was a great deal of editing from the first draft to publication, but there was no other advance planning done. To see what the first chapter ended up looking like check it out here
The rest of the book was the same way. Characters appeared, sub-plots emerged, tension developed and resolution happened. About halfway through the book I decided to go back and add a prologue, but from start to finish on the book that was it.
Then when I finished I had more than a few people tell me that just wasn’t the way to do it.
Through the process I had a number of head scratching sessions where I had to really thing about how things were going to develop, but I think this provided a check for me and gave the plot a more realistic feel.
I have a friend who knows every twist and turn a book will take before he starts writing. He uses index cards and charts the progression of the book by taping the cards to the walls in a horizontal sequence around the office. If he needs to add more detail, different characters or sub-plots he expands on the vertical. Confuses me but it works for him.
I have another friend who starts with an outline and expands it and expands it and expands it until he has his book. Again, confuses me, but works for him.
For my follow up book I am doing a bit more planning. I have my opening scene, a few sub-plots from the first book I want to develop further (book two is a sequel), but beyond that the book is coming to life as I write it.
Plan or no plan, roadmap or not - if it works for you then it works.
Eddie Van Halen once was asked, or so I was told, how when someone was learning a song by ear if they would know if what they were playing was correct. Eddie said, “If it sounds good it’s right.” Now Eddie Van Halen has also said, “hat if you make a mistake make it again so people think you know what you’re doing. I think if you read these two pearls of wisdom together you’ll be well on your way to some tasty morsels of prose by allowing your own style to develop and let what works for you be your guide.
I’ve always loved getting a new cell phone. Trouble is as soon as I have a one I’m ready for a new one. At least until I purchased my first iPhone. Sure there were things to get used to – virtual keyboards, small ear speaker and the “slide to unlock”; however, none of these outweigh the universe of available apps. I even decided to develop one of my own (not a writer’s app but to determine child support in South Carolina).
Below are some of the apps I enjoy. They are from a variety of categories - all of which I have found helpful to my writing process.
1 –Voice Memos. I mention this first because it is included with the iPhone. It’s a plain and simple voice recorder with great recording quality and ease of file transfer. If I need to quickly remember a thought, I use Voice Memo.
2 – eReaders. Both Nook
are free and with a B&N or Amazon account you can read your library on your iPhone. Megareader
is an inexpensive eReader that provides access to nearly 2 million books for your reading pleasure.
3 – TweetDeck
. So there is this website called Twitter…. TweekDeck and Hootsuite are just two of the many Twitter interfaces letting you interact on Twitter directly from your iPhone. The two apps offer different features, but between them some of the attributes allow for grouping of tweets to make sure you don’t miss anything important – great for those of you who have lots of followers – or you can even bank tweets in advance and schedule when they are sent out on Twitter.
4 – Evernote
. This is a memo app on steroids. You can do voice memos, take photos, do notes, grab a screen shot or even remember a web page. If you have your iPhone and see something – literally anywhere, Evernote will remember it for you. It also has a great interface for organization and retrieval.
5 – Jotnot
. This app turns your iPhone into a scanner using the camera feature. Start up the app, point it at the document you want to scan and it is off to the races.
6 – Writeroom
. Writeroom is a straightforward clear screen writing app. Text can be exported to a variety of word processing programs. Writechain is a program that gives you on the fly writing statistics and provides a breakdown on how frequently you write which is great for motivation.
7 – iLava
and Angry Birds
. Sure they aren’t actually writing apps per se
, but sometimes you just need a break from writing. iLava is a virtual lava lamp and Angry Birds is just a fun game, but terribly addictive I should warn.
There are a ton of other apps available. With the iPhone I’ve found with rare exception the phrase, “Yeah, there’s an app for that,” is completely true. So if you look at the apps above and don’t like them, not to worry, there is most likely another one you will like. As well, these apps are also generally available for the iPad and the iTouch. So get an iPhone (or iPad or iTouch) and get to writing.
For years I looked at blogs and rolled my eyes. Why would I ever need to blog?
I had this same response with Tivo. I had the same reaction to satellite radio. I did it with my iPhone. In each of the situations I had a response, see below, that, for me anyway, covered it. (See the second part of each to understand why I was fooling myself!)
-I have cable television why would I possible need Tivo. -- No, I didn't see that show, I was busy.
-Satellite radio? Really, what's the big deal? -- Howard Stern? No, he's not on in my market anymore.
-An iPhone? I already have a smart phone that lets me do everything I need. -- No I missed that meeting, see my phone didn't synch...
Fast forward a few years and now I have Tivo, Sirius/XM, an iPhone and a whole lot of other things that I, at the time, couldn't possibly have needed at the time. I, candidly, don't know how I did without them.
On top of this I also have a blog. I never thought I would be blogging, but now I can't imagine how I was able to write The Trust
without a blog.
--A pause for a moment of encouragement to all of those who don't have a blog. Get one. Loads of places make it really easy to do.
Since I've started this blog, I find I'm making myself write more frequently, I pay a more attention to things around me (I need ideas for the blog after all!!) and, it seems, the words all around are coming a bit more freely.
Now, I recognize I'm new to this world of blogging and at the present, I do have a feeling I'm blogging to the vastness of cyberspace, but the benefit far outweighs any burden.
Here are a few things I have learned so far that seem to be paying off and helping me encounter a few people along the way who are looking over what I have to say. A few have even returned with friends.
1 - First and foremost, I believe you should write what you know. I will likely write, among other things, about publishing with a smaller publisher because, this I know. Hopefully I will someday be able to blog about selling many vast thousands of books, but that will have to be a topic for a later date because right now, I know nothing about it, but to dream....
2 - Don't over blog. Two, maybe 3 blogs per week. However, be consistent. Too many and people get blog fatigue. To few and you'll have no readers.
3 - Compose concise blogs of perhaps no more than 400-600 words.
4 - It is also my goal to have something to say rather than just ranting - though a little ranting can be a good thing.
5 - I'm quickly learning that shameless promotion is a requirement. It's also a requirement to read the blogs of others. The benefit here is that I am learning a great deal and supporting the blogs of others. It also seems that bloggers are a supporting lot.
6 - Always be up for trying new things to get the word on your blog out. There are loads of information out there for bloggers, so eat it up.
7 - Be persistent and consistent. Sort of redundant with number 2 above, but I believe it takes a while to build up a following. So stay at it.
8 - Lastly, Have Fun!!!
Research is always a tricky thing. I've heard different, if not competing views, from almost every writer with whom I discuss this subject. Some advocate for only internet using the Google approach. I'm not the head cheerleader of this movement, but I will say that you can find a lot of info on virtually every subject. Also with Google's satellites and imaging, Google also makes it easy to visit about anywhere without leaving the comfort, or the shackles, of your writing sanctuary. I certainly see the merit of this, but I believe it is a rather sterile approach to the process. It's like looking at a photo of a Costa Rican beach and then attempting to describe the feel of the sand beneath your feet. From a purely visual exposure through a separate media, I just don't think you can do justice to the cool feel of the sand beneath your feet - even though the air is so humid and heavy it could only be described as "wet." The pure visual exposure can never let you fully understand what it is like to be suddenly attacked by an iguana who wants to fight you over a piece of fruit.
Other folks advocate traveling to the area or region you are going to be writing about to get a taste of the local flavor and to interact with the locals. I'm not really the cheerleader for this movement either. Charleston, South Carolina is perhaps my favorite city and I would hate to have a weekend visitor attempt to a paint an accurate image of the city scape. I just don't think a weekend in a locale gives you much beyond what the tourist brochures provide.
I have found a method that works for me. First, I write about geographical areas I know. I want to make sure that I'm 100% accurate when I am talking about a place. I want to make even the locals find something new to them. Fortunately I've traveled a good deal otherwise I would be limited as to where I had available to me as settings. I believe that if you write about an area you know then it will show.
Now when I need to know facts, the nuances of a profession or things such as techniques, procedural matters or otherwise, I just ask. I have found that most people with a particular skill set or specific knowledge are more than happy to have an eager audience who is willing to listen. In the off case where a person will not talk to you, I have two techniques that generally will get them to speak to you. One, do a little research in advance and learn who is recognized as another "expert" in the area. If they don't want to speak to you simply say something like, "Thank you so much for your time. I had one final question, as a back up I am going to call Mr. or Ms. So and So. Is it okay that I tell them I have spoken to you?" Or, secondly, try this. "Thank you so much for your time. You're the first person I called and wanted to see if you could suggest someone I could speak to who would be as knowledgable as you on this subject." Generally one of those two will either get the person talking or they will give you a promising lead. Just keep in mind, it is a rarity that people won't talk about themselves and what they do.
One additional point, if you know someone who has a personal relationship the individual you need to speak to, by all means take advantage.
Remember, don't be worried about rejection. If you're rejected, try again. The simplest thing you can do is just ask. However, a word of caution, don't get bogged down in the research. After all, the goal is to write and if you are researching, you're not writing.