Category Archives: Marketing

Realm Makers 2012 – Day 3

Today when compared to the last two days was fairly uneventful. I finished out the session on finding one’s readers (aka: marketing), and another on wounding the human body by Carla Hoch (author of “Fight Write”) which my son also attended. He enjoyed the teen track, but I think he might have enjoyed her sessions even more. She’s an absolute hoot. If you want to know more about writing believable/accurate fight scenes and what a human body can survive/not survive, her book, blog, and videos are a must (you can find everything on fightwrite.net).

Frank Peretti also had a Q & A session and gave the closing keynote. As before, he was exuberant, funny, and also wise.

For the keynote, he recited the scene from the first Jurassic Park movie where Dr Ian Malcom (played by Jeff Goldblum) warned (paraphrased), “You were so determined in finding out if you could do something, you never stopped to ask if you should.”

Frank compared how Hammond and the scientists’ attempt to control nature failed rather spectacularly to how we’ve lost control over technology in much the same way. And how now it’s controlling us. He asked us to step back and figure out at what point we say enough is enough.

As he was speaking I wrote in my notes (with paper and pen, even though I’m using that evil tech to write and post this): “Yes Big Tech knows a lot about me, probably a lot more than I think they do. They can use it to destroy me and my life if they choose, and with very little effort. Jesus, however, still knows more about me, and I can trust him to not misuse that information or try to destroy me with it.” None of us can say the same for Silicon Valley, or even our own government that knows a lot more about us than they will ever admit.

Right after the keynote ended, two fellow “Realmies” happened to read my nametag. They pulled out their copy of Havok’s “Sensational” anthology asking, “Didn’t you write a story in this?” They then asked me to sign it, which always makes me happy. But it’s also humbling. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel worthy of being asked to give an autograph. I’m no different than the two ladies who only want people to read their writing, find joy, and be inspired or strengthened by it.

The day ended with a book expo and author signing that was open to the public. Not as many showed up as in previous years, but I would still call it a success. The line for Frank Peretti was understandably the longest.

Believe it or not, but Tom bought more books than me! Or I should say, I bought Tom more books than I bought myself…

So Realm Makers 2021 is now officially over. I did, however, sign up for the post conference workshop on using social media to sell more books. I’m determined to not let my fear of using it deter me from using it…

Interesting, don’t you think, considering I just wrote about how such technology is controlling us… ?

Realm Makers – Day 2

The problem with writers conferences is so much happens. Boiling it all down into a manageable chunk can be… challenging. After all the classes and workshops, the brain gets full. Mine’s so full, I think it’s leaking out my ears. Or at least should be. Or maybe I just need to clean out the wax…

My favorite part of the day had nothing to do with the classes or on my appointments (more on that in a bit).

The Havok Magazine team met for lunch at a Greek sandwich shop called Dino’s (yummy. I love me some Greek Gyros). I was good today and ordered a Greek salad instead of a gyro, though. I ate myself stupid yesterday and knew I would be eating myself stupid again for supper. They cancel each other out, right?

Anyway, at lunch, one of the Havok volunteers thanked me for publishing one of her short stories, and later one of the authors for whom we accepted just last week also thanked me. I didn’t expect such sincere gratitude, because even though I sent the acceptance letters, the choosing and editing is a team effort. I can take some, but certainly not all the credit.

One of the sessions I’m attending is on finding readers and being irresistible to them. Not so much about marketing, per se, but about looking at marketing in a different way. Because most readers despise the idea. Instead, he said, reframe it into building relationships instead of making a sale. That’s the one thing that always drove me away from the idea. I’m not a salesman (or woman). I see it as trying to take advantage, or seeing my readers, not as people, but as walking wallets. I never want to even appear that way. So what I need to do is soul search a bit to find what about me and my writing will attract readers, and what can I do to build a relationship with them? It’s a tough question that may take a while to answer.

Which segues me into my first appointment. I presented my fantasy which the editor was intrigued enough to ask for a proposal. Not the complete manuscript, but no matter. It’s a step in the right direction (plus it gives me time to tweak it in a few areas I know need tweaking). I also asked for advice on where to find potential readers, which for fantasy and sci-fi is mostly Instagram and TikTok. She also gave me some people to follow to see how they use Instagram that I can emulate.

As for my second appointment, I presented my mainstream sci-fi story, because her publishing house leans more mainstream/secular audiences. I stumbled a bit when she asked what my main character’s arc was. For some reason I drew a blank, because, at least in the first book, it’s a bit multitudinous, and continues on into the trilogy (the second of which is complete). Once she asked if it was more than one, then I was able to tell her the overall arc. Whew! Bullet dodged! She also asked me submit a proposal as well as gave me some great advice on how to fix my first chapter (which had fairly important, but easily fixed issue). The best compliment she gave me was, “Your voice is sci-fi. I can see that right away.” I always question my voice and if it’s a fit for whatever genre I’m writing in. That it fit with this book is a big relief.

But it’s getting late, so I will say good night now.

“Good night now!”

Gotta ‘nother full day of classes tomorrow. No appointments, though, which takes away some of the stress.

Realm Makers – Day 1

Today was officially the first day of the annual Realm Makers writers conference. This is my fourth year attending. It’s taking place in St. Louis Missouri for which me, my son, and a friend drove all day yesterday to get here.

As much as I love to fly in an airplane, I despise what the airlines make passengers go through. So we drove for 17 hours straight, leaving at 3:45 am and arriving at 7:30 pm. It’s a rough trip, but still better than flying. Other than all the requirements and regulations, I’m not limited to how much luggage I can bring, and I’m not beholden to anyone’s schedule. It was also cheaper than plane tickets, especially when my friend paid for half the gas.

Today was a fairly full schedule. I took a pre-conference workshop on indie publishing presented by author and CEO of LMPBN Publishing and founder of 20Booksto50K, Michael Anderle, which was quite informative. Although I’m still looking for a traditional publisher, I’m not adverse to going indie. I can certainly see the advantages, such as the higher percentage of royalties and greater control over editing, content, cover design, etc. Yet there’s also a lot more work involved, such as the editing, cover design and the dreaded marketing. Plus the cost of all of the above.

Granted traditional publishers want their authors to do a lot more marketing themselves, but not knowing the best avenues to take, they can give me direction and advice on how best to accomplish it.

Plus I do better when others hold me to account–such as deadlines. Going indie, I fear I would procrastinate too much. I love to figuratively slit my wrists to write, but pouring that same blood, sweat and tears into what Michael terms “pushing the button” with actually publishing the book and the marketing, I’d rather literally slit my wrists (not literally).

On the lighter side… My son is taking the teen track which starts tomorrow. I was pleased that he wanted to attend, for one, but was even more pleased when I saw him take notes during the keynote address by author Frank Peretti, best known for “This Present Darkness.” He not only gave great advice, but had the entire audience in stitches with laughter. He’s funny, exuberant, and obviously loves life. He was also quite inspirational when talking about his own journey toward successful authorship. In short, we have to trust and be patient, and understand that God has not forsaken us when we find ourselves waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more for our dreams to come to fruition. He knows what he’s doing, and our job is to follow. Faithfully. And gracefully.

Tomorrow I’m meeting with two editors of small presses. As for my expectations, not high. I’m certainly not anticipating they’ll toss a contract at me. That they’ll ask to see my entire manuscript, though, that’s the hope.

I just returned to our hotel room after attending the agent/editor Q & A, which is always helpful in preparing for my 15 minute appointments. I have a better idea of what they’re looking for, and now know which manuscript to present to each.

Anyway, I’m gonna put on my pajamas and relax for a spell before switching of the lights. And say a prayer that God gives me peace of mind and the words I need to make a good impression and not embarrass myself by stumbling over my words.

Time to Produce

The best (and most thought-provoking) part of attending the RealmMakers writers conference a few weeks ago was spending time with Terry Brooks. He was gracious enough to read the first few pages of my fantasy (you can read more specifics here if you haven’t already).

What stuck with me was this part of the conversation:

“How much time do you spend per day writing?” Terry asked.

“About an hour.” (On a good day).

He scowled at me a bit and said, “If you’re not willing to give up everything for your writing, your writing will suffer. I’m not saying you have to, but you must be willing.”

I haven’t been able to get that out of my head, but at the same time, I haven’t yet seriously asked myself that question. Simply saying “yes” isn’t enough. I have to believe it.

I like what I’m doing other than writing too much. Note the qualifier “too much,” because I do many things that do little more than waste time; things that I can afford to rid myself of. That includes television and much of social media (not all, because publishers look for authors willing and able to market themselves via social media. I just have to manage my time on social media better [more on that in a future entry]).

If I’m serious about writing and publishing, I have to take it seriously. After all, once I get a book contract (and yes, I am assuming I’ll eventually get one), I will have to meet any deadlines. If I’m not willing to sacrifice my time now to write, how can I hope to sacrifice it later?

A Head’s Up

Busy week y’all!

Tomorrow a short story of mine will be published on gohavok.com–a sci-fi story this time, and a bit of a love story. It’s based on a song written in the 1960s, and the first person to guess it correctly will be added to a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.

I will also be hosting a blog tour for the release of a speculative anthology on the biblical Beatitudes and Woes for which I wrote a story. Be sure to stop by for that, because I’ll talk about how it all started and came together in only six months almost to the day.

Stealing Labor

Someone shared the article below on a Facebook group I follow, and I commented thusly:

“The article was infuriating enough, but some of the comments . . . I would charge any of those people who think an author can’t be harmed by electronic piracy to try writing and publishing a book (some authors can only afford to publish ebooks). Then they will understand just how much it costs, both in time and in money.”

I’m also reminded of when I purchased a student-version of CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) software for $250. When it arrived at the school, at least five people descended upon me asking for a copy.

“Absolutely,” I said. “For $250.” Their expressions were priceless. I then told them, “I didn’t pay $250 just so you could get it for free.” The same thing happened after we built our garage. Several people came to us asking to store their boat, motorcycle, you name it. I said, “Absolutely. For $30,000.”

My parents taught both my sister and me that we should always value the work we do, and to never allow people to expect us to give away our labor for free. In fact, I had to purchase my mom’s prints at full price, but when she needed me to draw a few things for her, she paid me a per/hour rate to do them.

So, yeah, I get a little upset when people expect others to give away their labor at no cost to them. I guarantee if someone told them they needed also to work for free, they, too, would get a bit upset.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/aug/08/elitist-angry-book-pirates-ocean-of-pdf-author-campaign-website

Search Words

When I first created my website, I made sure to include keywords for search engines so people looking for content like mine will find me easier.

I understood that, and I included the most relevant ones. Still, I didn’t expect a lot of traffic. I read somewhere there are over 125 million blogs available for people to read. Who am I in that sea of writers?

In 2005 I signed up to writing.com, a website dedicated to writers to encourage them to write, but also to read, to review and be reviewed. In fact, as of a week ago, I celebrated my 12th year. While it took me over six months to post my first item for people to read/review, I now have over 100.

About a year later, my church asked me to write what the youth pastor titled, “Bible Monologues,” for the Easter service. He and I both wrote short monologues from the perspective of little-known people of the Bible during the time of Jesus.

Three I wrote for the Easter service, but since I liked the premise so much I wrote two others.

About six months later, a church representative found one of them to use for one of their own programs. I was surprised and even honored that one of my little stories that took so little time and effort on my part made such an impression.

Fast forward eleven years.

I received this email today:

I am contacting you in inquiry of a monologue you’ve written. I would love to use it for my class, and a student to perform during our fundraiser. I was wondering, if we credited correctly, if it would be possible to use “My forever stained hands” for our class? If you could email me back as soon as possible, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Of course I let her use it, and even sent her the link to the all the ones I wrote.

I asked how she even found my monologues, because as vast as the Internet is, for her to find one of my little stories seems near impossible, especially since it was something she was hoping to find. She said she had gone to writing.com and searched “Biblical monologues.” Because I used both of those words as keywords for my stories, they popped up.

I need to go through all my other items, and my website in general (perhaps even this blog), and see what keywords I need to adjust and/or add. Who knows how much interest I will gain. It certainly couldn’t hurt, because there’s a lot of competition out there vying for people’s attention.

A Single Spark

I set a goal of writing every day with the help of "The Writers Devotional" by Amy Peters. First week in, and I skipped Thursday and Friday. I'm not off to a good start.

However, after reading Friday's focus on biography and Saturday's focus on what books to read, they tie together well enough to combine them into a single entry.

Why do you write? Is it to entertain with a great story, to improve a person's life with a self-help book, or perhaps encourage people to improve their life through fiction?

Another question (and if you don't write for others), what's the one book that changed you the most?

Friday's biography focused on George Orwell who wrote Animal Farm and 1984.

Aside, and a bit of useless trivia: George Orwell came up with the title 1984 not necessarily because he was prescient, but merely switched the year of when he wrote it in 1948.

His books serve as cautionary tales when governments run amok that still today have a wide readership. They are nearly timeless, and show that power will always corrupt no matter how we try to guard against it — and always will at the expense of entire populations.

Friday's focus on what book to read was "Silent Spring" by Rachel Carson. It was about the dangers of the insecticide DDT. Because of her book, the chemical was banned.

Neither author expected to see how large of an impact their words would have. Unfortunately for Orwell, he never saw how much of an impact. To quote Carson, "It would be unrealistic to believe that one book could bring about a complete change."

Yet that's what so many writers want, and need. Writing is daring to pour our heart and soul on the page. It is an act of bravery to let others read our writing, because doing so we risk people stomping our soul into slippery red goo when it's rejected.

My first novel I wrote out of discontent. Not like Orwell with his overarching fear of where society is headed, or the more immediate dangers of scientific or technological advancements like Carson. My frustration stemmed from science fiction leaving out — or being outright hostile to — the existence of God, and Christian fiction focused almost solely on romance with little to no fantasy and science fiction.

I'm still having problems finding an agent/publisher for that novel, because the Christian publishing market is still slow to accept science fiction of my variety, and most of the mainstream science fiction market doesn't want anything to do with religion. Because of that, I'm more focused on finding an agent for my mainstream science fiction novel.

I'm not out of options, though. I can still self-publish my first novel, but I'm not as yet willing to put in the work (and money) required for it to succeed. I'm lazy that way. Does that mean I don't believe in my story as much as Orwell or Carson? That's a good question that will require some serious thought.

More questions that need answering: How much do I want my words to impact my readers, and how important is that to me? What — if anything — am I willing to sacrifice to see it through?

"In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act." — George Orwell.

"Great storms announce themselves with a single breeze, and a single random spark can ignite the fires of rebellion." – Bishop from the movie Ladyhawke

*Sigh* Rejected Again

I just received this little email:

Andra,

Thank you for offering your story to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.

We’re sorry to tell you that we will not be using it; you are free to submit it elsewhere.

That makes Rejection Number Two for my story “Ashella’s Heart.”

At this point, I don’t know if I have the energy to find another magazine to submit it to. Sure, I have access to significant lists of magazines that accept stories like mine, but the problem comes with the necessity of reading a copy or two of each one to find out if it’s really a good fit, or not. That takes a lot of time. Sure, I could submit it to every science fiction/fantasy magazine out there without reading any of it, but that seems too . . . impersonal, I guess. Not quite the word I’m looking for, but I’m not motivated enough to find it.

So, yeah, I’m feeling a little maudlin about the whole thing.

Part of it is due to spending the last three days looking for agents for my sci-fi novel. I found over a dozen that look promising, and that’s a good thing. Better to have too many choices than not enough. All I need to do is structure and personalize my query letter and synopsis according to each one’s submission requirements – starting with the agents that I like best and work my way down from there.

The good news is, I at least I didn’t have to wait until my birthday to find out the magazine thought my story sucked (kidding a bit there. My story didn’t necessarily suck. Most likely they’re looking for something different).

I just wish I could better predict what magazine/publisher/agent will fit with what I write. It’s so damned unpredictable in that the only way to discover it is to send it out there to be rejected. I’d like to think I have a thick enough skin, but on days like today – apparently – it’s not thick enough.

Yay! I’m Rejected!

One more rejection letter to add to the growing pile:

Dear Andra,

Thank you for submitting “Ashella’s Heart” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it’s a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

Sincerely,

Lesley Conner
Managing Editor
Apex Magazine.

I’m a bit disappointed, but it is what it is. All it means is I need to find another magazine to submit to. I have one in mind, but I want to read a few more issues to make sure it’s a good fit (according to moi). Although this particular magazine says it takes both fantasy and science fiction, most of the stories included in the few issues I’ve read so far have been science fiction. I don’t want to waste time submitting to a magazine that’ll reject it out of hand because I didn’t get the genre right.

EDIT: Have you ever responded to a publisher/editor/agent and thought the moment after you sent it, “Oh crap! Did I spell their name right?”

I had that moment of panic after I responded thanking the editor for their time and consideration. Thankfully, I did spell it right *wipes sweat off brow, and takes a deep breath to slow down heartrate*.