Snowpocalypse 2015!

Well, at least for the US east coast. 😉 I amused myself last night by scrolling through my Facebook news feed to see just how many different weather maps there were and how drastically different each forecast was. All I could ascertain was that we were in for 12″+… and that’s all one really needs to know. Any storm where a foot is the least amount, is fairly significant for this area.

With schools already closing early today, it’s more than likely my son will have a snow day tomorrow, which might lead to me working from home. Might be a great opportunity to get in some writing between work tasks. On days when the weather is crap-tastic, as tomorrow promises to be, I like nothing better than to sit with my laptop, a hot cup of tea, a blanket, and watch as 1 of 3 house cats tries to use me as a pillow (they take turns).

So, do you get excited about writing time windfalls? Do you gameplan in order to make the most of your newfound time?

Thanks for stopping by and if you live in the northeast region of the US, be safe over the next 48 hours. 

Can I Critique a Man Booker Award Winner?

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Sure! Just like anyone can critique your books and my books (and boy have they!). It’s really that simple, right? In a country that loves to tout it’s freedoms, there’s an abundance of people willing to give you their $0.02. Sometimes that criticism is based in knowledge and understanding. Sometimes it isn’t, but the fact remains that it’s everyone’s prerogative to provide commentary on the written word.

So, mine happens to be about a Man Booker Award winner and the book is The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Let me start out by saying that the book is written very well. The command of language is clear and the author’s ability to describe emotion and conflict is outstanding. Really well done. The story deftly jumps back and forth between present and past and closer past. I was really enjoying it. Then, this historical fiction suddenly became a romance. Was it part of the story? Yes. But, it became so flowery and fanciful that it really pulled me out of the flow.

It hasn’t stopped me reading. In fact, it pushed me to get back to the good stuff and I’m glad I did. Flanagan has a lot to say about life. But, now that I’m 4/5 of the way through, I keep scratching my head about those 3-4 chapters. They’re part of a pivotal plot point, so it’s not like they’re superfluous. It’s the approach I didn’t like. It was the sense that I’d started reading another book in that section and the all-too-obvious ending fell flat.

I started reading this because one reviewer made a comparison to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, one of my all-time favorites. Doesn’t grip me the way that book did, but it’s still a fine read. It’s subject matter isn’t pleasant though, so be careful. WWII POW slave camps described in every wretched detail. It’s horrific and haunting. If you do happen to read it, or have already read it, let me know if the romance throws you off as it did me.

Christmas is only 3 days away! Can you believe it? 😀 

Honestly, Don’t Bother With Facebook Advertising

Facebook

Many moons ago (ok, over the summer), I wrote a piece denouncing Facebook as a valid platform for investing your advertising dollars. Well, with the recent news of impending change, I’d say that piece is even more justified. Essentially, Facebook wants you, as an entrepreneur, to pay for 99.9% of your interactions. So, remember when you could reach a few of your followers just by posting a link to your book on Amazon? Well, not anymore. My recommendation? Keep your Facebook page. Post updates on occasion. But, put your marketing dollars and your social media energies elsewhere.

8 Tips for Your Next Book Show

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You don’t see the candy on the table (tip #6 ignored)! This is an old picture… lesson learned.

I’ll be at my first book show in ages on Sunday. The beach town of Belmar, NJ, will be the location of the Belmar BookCon; a celebration of self- and small-press-published authors. If you’re in the area (or know someone who will be), be sure to check it out.

Have you done in-person shows before? I’ve done several over the years and it can be hit or miss, depending on the turnout, but it’s always fun to chat with readers and fellow writers alike. For those of us with extrovert personalities, it can also be a bit of a release.

But, it’s not all about the author at these types of shows. It’s really about the books. I think the biggest mistake I see at these shows is not putting thought into your author space. I’ve even seen authors who showed up without books! This boggles my mind. You might be the best salesperson in the world, but nothing will intrigue a reader more than having your book in their hand. Cards and giveaways are nice, but what they’re really after is your book (hopefully). It’s a much easier sell if you have a product they can touch.

If you’re planning on doing a show, here’s a few tips:

1. Have a nice tablecloth. Most folding tables are pretty blah and the white ones don’t take long to get pretty filthy. Spice it up a bit with a classy clean white or black tablecloth. You’d be surprised what a difference this one item can make. Don’t get anything too loud, as you might be distracting from your product!

2. Pick up a couple of clear acrylic standing displays. You can print out pricing, reviews, or social media info to display right on your table. The idea is to make it easy for the reader to see what you’re all about.

3. Stagger your book piles (makes it look like you’ve already sold some) and leave some at the front of the table (easy access for the reader). The table should be inviting them to pick up your book and read the blurb on the back cover. You should also not hide behind your books. Don’t stack them so high that your smiling face can’t be seen.

4. Give readers some space. I’ve been told I’m too passive at shows. Well, that’s just me, so take this advice with a grain of salt. When I walk into a store, I hate it when a salesperson attacks me right away. I just want to look. If I have a question, I’ll ask. So, I always give potential readers the same space I want. A simple hello when they reach the table and then let them pick up a book or look them over. If they’re still in the space 30 seconds later, they must be a little interested, so I’ll throw out my one-liners. Speaking of which…

5. Prepare one-liners in advance! You should create a few book hook lines. Try out different ones. See which ones seem to work and which ones don’t, but be sure to have something you can say to readers in a concise manner. I’ve heard all sorts of lines. Some work better than others. It can be hard to come up with a single line that gets the point of your book across. And don’t mistake this for the elevator pitch. They are not the same. A one-liner is self-descriptive: a single line that describes your book. I used to say “A bit like Patterson with a touch of Dean Koontz” when describing Multiples. I’ve changed that up since, but it usually elicited a response. If they were interested, I would then go into the elevator pitch.

6. Have something to give away. A business card or a pen or a bookmark. The only requirement I have is that it has to have your (author) name on it! I’ve written in the past about getting author swag on the cheap. Don’t give away candy… unless they have custom wrappers. The point of a giveaway is to remind people of who you are. I’ve had folks come by, look at my books and say, I only buy on my Kindle anymore. Sure, you can reply by saying you’re available there, but a business card will let them know how to find you and your books (or at least it should).

7. Practice signing your name (especially if it’s a pen name!) and bring a pen! Believe it or not, I’ve known folks who forgot to bring a pen to an event. Readers want their book signed, even if you’re a nobody!

8. Lastly, remember that not everyone will be interested in your books. Shocker, right? Deep breath. It’ll be ok. Keep your expectations low. If you’re selling paperbacks, you’re probably asking for $10 or more per book. That’s asking a lot, especially for an author they more than likely know nothing about. Be a gracious host in your show space and leave readers feeling positive when they walk away, whether they purchased your book or not.

First show coming up? 100th show coming up? Post questions or share tips in the comments section and thanks for stopping by! 😀

Don’t Get Comfortable

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It’s Tuesday afternoon, September 23rd as I write this. With vacation less than 48 hours away, I should be thinking about basking in the warmth and humidity of the fall Floridian sun (guaranteed I’m bitching about the humidity when this post goes live). Instead, I’m worried about my job and where my company is headed.

I’ve worked in offices for almost fifteen years now, mostly as an editor. Not a long time for some, but long enough to know that you should be afraid the moment you feel comfortable. At my very first desk job, back in 2001, the company was 250 strong. Four months later, we had a layoff. Four months after that, another layoff. Four months after that… you get the picture. In a matter of 3 years, they went through 5 layoffs and shed ~100 people from that office. I left that job willingly to complete my college degree.

When I found my way back into a large company again in 2005, I got comfortable. Four plus years at a place will do that. And just when it seemed like we’d reached a peak of performance (a small group of people working on medical journals that moved like well oiled machines and made money) the controlling conglomerate came in and changed what wasn’t broken. I tried to go with the change and found that I just wasn’t cut out for a characterless work environment. I like people. People are what makes a job fun. Remove all need to interact with people: remove all the fun.

Anyway, I landed at my current job just over 3 years ago. I loved it from day one. It had the kind of people I liked, the flexibility I needed, and the pay was good. Didn’t hurt that it was also a 10 minute drive from home. It was my first dip into the advertising industry. Be careful, some said. You can get burnout pretty quickly. I felt it, suffered a bit of it, but still found the desire to get up in the morning and go to work. Always a plus.

So, when I started feeling really comfortable, it was really just a matter of time before the bottom fell out, right? I just was hoping to get a little more time. That’s not to say that the bottom has fallen out… yet. It’s just not looking good. Working for a branch that’s part of a larger network helps in the sense that they try and place employees at other branches that have work. Trick is, the branch they’re sending me to requires a train ride into New York City.

I realize that, for some, this would be a dream come true. For me, it’s a hassle and costly. And, as much as I enjoy the bright lights and big city, I love nothing more than leaving it behind when I’m done visiting. Now, on my return from vacation, I have a 90-day stint in Chelsea, NY to look forward to. I’m not totally dreading the opportunity, but that’s partly because I can see an end. If it was indefinite, I’d be dusting off the resume once again (which might happen anyway). Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to still be employed. I just wish I could settle in where I wouldn’t be concerned with the fate of the company. I guess that’s just the age we live in. Don’t get comfortable. It could all change tomorrow.