Archive for February, 2012

How do I tell the world about my books?

February 23, 2012

These days changes in “what’s hot and what’s not” in effective book promotion are swirling past so quickly that any author could be pardoned for wanting to throw in the towel or scream. (But hey, why did you begin writing in the first place? Isn’t your writing worth telling people about?)

Okay, so we all admit promotion is necessary, and there are gazillion avenues open to any author. Problem is — what methods work best?  More to the point, what is going to work best for you, and you, and me?

First, realize that what we face isn’t all that different from the advertising and promotion problem faced by many businesses like “Sloppy Joe’s Hamburger Heaven” and “Beetle Boynton’s Burgers.”  Sloppy may gather funds and do a coupon mail-out. Beetle, less well funded, hires his nephew to stand on the street corner dressed like a hamburger and wave a sign:  “Most Popular Burgers in Town.”  Which works best?  Only Sloppy and Beetle know, and, possibly, neither will be willing to admit something did NOT work, though they’ll sure tell you if it did.  Whatever–they know they have to promote and get their name out in front of the public.  Quiet anonymity does not make for a successful business, no matter how delicious the hamburgers.

So, here we are as authors, knowing we have to promote our work. And, these days, we’re sitting in front of our computer screens, faced with gazillion (well, almost) opportunities to connect with the world at large.  There’s blogging, facebook (and attached groups–I’m on six of these currently), twitter,  linkedin,  Booktour, Booktown, Goodreads, Authors Den, Skillpages, Bestsellerbound, and . . . .   And, of course, there are a multitude of additional promotion opportunities and ways to get your name out on lists appropriate to every type of writing. For mystery authors there’s DorothyL,  for example, and, more subtly, Sisters in Crime, Senior Sleuths, and Murder Must Advertise. And there’s still a lot more.  How about promotion avenues on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, plus, plus,  (add your own).

Who was it said “What’s a body to do?”  It used to be fairly clear-cut. Large publishing firms in New York prepared publicity,  and funded (in some cases) author tours. They saw to submitting for reviews in important places.

Smaller publishing companies have been around for some time, and their authors got varying degrees of promotion help, but not usually a funded tour. In all cases, it has been a good idea for authors to prepare publicity packets with author info, photos, reviews, blurbs, etc. and hand them out to media, bookstores, and any other venue that might be interested in promoting or selling an interesting author story and/or an author’s book. It has always been  a good idea to travel to bookstores as much as a budget will allow. It was (and is) important to follow up mail (or e-mail) contacts with phone calls, and to connect with civic organizations, church groups,  and libraries in a reachable area and offer to talk at a meeting.   These mostly “old-fashioned” promotion ideas are still worth exploring.

But, how about the explosion of promotion methods and venues made available via the Internet? As a person who enthusiastically joined any number of available Internet groups and lists as they came along– at least until recently–I can say, “Stop, Look, Listen.” Yes, lists appropriate to your writing are important, partly because they share ideas. Ask those on Murder Must Advertise (or a list related to the type of writing you do) what promotion methods have worked for them. Or, if  reluctant to do that, especially if you are new, just join lists and read them. Conversation there  is almost guaranteed to get around to questions and answers about various types of book promotion.

But you can’t do it all.  Try, adapt, and, when necessary, drop what doesn’t seem to work for you or (admit it) a method that drives you crazy. Find what’s comfortable for you and your type of writing, and push that to the limit, but not beyond reason. Believe me, if you end up wanting to throw in the towel or scream (see paragraph one) then it’s time to sit back and evaluate.  Promotion is essential, and it can and should be enjoyable or at least comfortably possible. Why not enjoy chatting on line, much as you would over lunch with a friend? Read what others say in blogs and elsewhere, notice their concerns and interests, then comment on anything that sparks an idea or matching interest in you.  In other words, use yourself as a test for what works and what doesn’t when it comes from someone else’s promotion effort.


And, oh, yes — Get a web site.



February 17, 2012

Talent is nice, language skills are nice, good ideas are important, but, for a writer, I think it’s motivation that’s indispensable.

I’d enjoyed writing since beginning school,  had edited a college newspaper, and so on, but I didn’t get going, motivation-wise until coming to Spring Hollow in the Arkansas Ozarks kicked me into writing. Simply put, I wanted to share what I was experiencing with E V E R Y O N E!

That’s what did it for me.  Each writer has a somewhat similar story, I imagine–something that said “I have something to share, and it’s time to write.”

Of course motivation is not a one-time thing. It has to have enough steam to keep you going through the problems, discouragement, and rejection all writers face.

Okay, so I’m motivated. What next?

When I began writing about Spring Hollow for magazines and newspapers, and, eventually, in the non-fiction book “DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow,” I already realized that this beautiful area (sometimes I think it’s so beautiful I can’t take it all in) was doomed. We’re located in a county that, largely because it holds Walmart’s headquarters, is rapidly becoming urban/suburban.   Progress has too often been defined by this kind of  growth, though perhaps that’s beginning to change just a bit. As we loose wild places, we begin to value them more.

So, my motivation became a test for me. Could I construct Spring Hollow in words. Could I share and preserve it that way?

After taking up this challenge,  I learned something. In many cases, writing what our senses and perceptions tell us about a place (and I do this in my fiction writing, too) can be better than virtual reality, because we convey more than sight and sound. We strive to open doors for the reader, to bring individual experiences and perceptions to their attention.

I asked myself, “Can I be so accurate and honest that what a reader brings to what I have written enhances the experience for them? What can I bring alive for them?

Well, the reader has to answer that, of coarse, and what happens for him or her will depend, at least partly, on the life experiences they bring to the reading. But, if I am any example (albeit a prejudiced one) I did bring Spring Hollow alive in paper. How do I know this? Because what was once rural here is now suburban. Pastures and forests we used to drive through when coming home  now hold houses, some with golf course style lawns. I have to read my own book to bring it all alive again. If my motivation was to accomplish that, well–for at least one person– it succeeded.

If you are a writer, what motivates you?

Which came first? Ideas or words to express them?

February 10, 2012

As a writer, of course I love words and what they accomplish. On occasion, when no word seemed to fit and I dared invent one, I have been chastised by an editor who pushed me back onto the straight and narrow.

However . . . .

Some time ago Ruth Walker began her weekly column “Verbal Energy” with the sentence, “Our thoughts form our language.” (The Christian Science Monitor, August 9, 2009.) I saved the column.  (She’s an editor by profession, so deals with words intensely every day, often sharing the results of her work in her column.)  In this column on thoughts forming language she gave an example:

“The Viaduck de Millau, in the south of France, is the tallest bridge in the world. German newspapers praised ‘the elegance and lightness’ of the bridge, and the way it ‘floated above the clouds’ with ‘breathtaking beauty.’ French newspapers saw it as ‘immense,’ and a ‘concrete giant.’ Why such a difference?”.  Walker quotes the conclusion of  Stanford University scientist Lera Boroditsky, who explains that the response varied according to the language of the acclaimers. The German language assigns the word for bridge–die Bruck–to the feminine gender. The French word–le pont–is masculine.

Hm. Interesting. Ideas first. (Ignoring the verbal abuse and swearing that we sometimes hear popping out–we suspect–before the speaker thinks, not to mention other instances of speaking before thinking.)

Here’s another example of ideas before words. In his “Rural Life” essay column in The New York Times on July 6, 2009, one of my favorite writers, Verlyn Klinkenborg, wrote about how thunder sounds.  In this example, it seems obvious his ideas, and also the hearing of sounds that gave birth to the ideas, came before words were put on paper.  (Not to mention that it’s obvious Klinkenborg is in love with our language.)  See if you agree:

“It is late afternoon as I write. There is blundering beyond the tree line. Soon the tuberous blunderheads trundle over the horizon; they begin to ‘wampum, wampum, wampum’ until at last they’re vrooming nearby, just down the valley. Or perhaps they’re harrumphing and oomphing, from the very omphalos of the storm. Onomatopoeia is such a delicate thing.”

After another wonderful paragraph, he ends: “And then, just like that it’s over, only a bumbling far to the east, a last snicker of lightning. The sun gloats in the sky, casting a gleam on the pasture where there was so much umbering and ochreing only moments before. The static electricity of the day has been discharged, and with it the linguistic oddness I have been feeling. The storm, I realize, has left me ravenous, hungry as a raven.”

Isn’t that wonderful? I am in awe.

Back to today’s writing assignment. “Snickety, snickety, snickety, Radine.”


February 3, 2012


Not that I want to smash that image of suffering for your creative urge. The largest percentage of working writers will never be made wealthy by their work, or even earn a living wage.  They will suffer rejection, loneliness, discouragement. (It’s an awful world of problems out there.) So, why do we write?

For love.

To begin with, how about the love for words? We love what they can do, and sometimes it seems like magic.  We swirl sounds and meaning around in our heads as we write. With our words we can create emotion, give motivation, awaken images, share information, open thinking. We put a word or sentence down, consider it, then, perhaps, back out and type in more powerful or more beautiful words. We create magic more potent and real than Harry Potter ever did. We create magic like J. K. Rowling did!

We love ideas. Whether we’re sharing them in non-fiction or fiction, it seems to me we must be excited by the idea and eager to share it if we’re going to write it. We must love the idea, in other words, and that gives us the fire to write it. After all, isn’t writing all about sharing ideas?

We love our readers.  (What? We won’t ever know who 99% of them are.) Well, are we writing just so WE can read our words? If not just for our reading alone, then why? We want to share. Sure, it’s nice to be paid for the sharing, but don’t we have to love those who may read what we write in some way?  I’ve heard more than once that it’s a good idea to picture one reader as we write, and write for that person. It’s so much easier if we learn to love that otherwise anonymous person. The motivation to work at our computers so we can share with that person is, I say, a true love.

We also love the sources of information we use in our writing.  Does the word love sound too strong for how we feel about the expert in a field we need to know more about for our purposes? (Suggestion:  Look up the words “love” and its related term, “affection,” in your dictionary.) Love breeds respect and kindness, and, golly, if we don’t treat our sources with kindness and respect we sure won’t (1) get their best and willing help, and (2) ever be able to use them as a source again.

Love ourselves.  Love our unique ability to create with words. Love the message or adventure we are sharing. Love our neighbor, and our neighbor’s neighbor. (Oh!  That’s me.)

Who or what can you love today?