Archive for the ‘Free Stuff’ Category

How Do You Deal With An Uncooperative Muse?

October 13, 2013


I mentioned last week my writing muse has abandoned me. It’s probably to make me wonder if I’ll ever finish the last half of my REICHOLD STREET sequel so the book will actually see the light of day this year, as I more or less promised.

Or maybe it’s just to make me sweat.

I’m not sure. Those nine Greek muses were notoriously unpredictable. Not to mention there was no muse specifically for fiction.

Don’t believe me? Check the list:

    Calliope was the muse of epic poetry
    Clio was the muse of history
    Erato was the muse of love poetry
    Euterpe was the muse of music
    Melpomene was the muse of tragedy
    Polyhymnia was the muse of sacred poetry
    Terpsichore was the muse of dance
    Thalia was the muse of comedy
    Urania was the muse of astronomy

See? No muse at all for historical fiction, mystery, westerns, sci-fi, fantasy, spy thrillers, horror, young adult or zombie romance.

The tragedy and comedy muses might work, if you’re considering a reprise of Shakespeare’s Romeo and that Capulet girl … or think you have a shot rewriting Joseph Heller’s fabulous “Catch-22” into the latest zombie apocalypse fable, featuring a worried Yossarian and the dispassionate Colonel Cathcart as dancing corpses.

So, since the literary muse I don’t even have has abandoned me for the moment, I’ve been spending time foraging around the Internet … mostly because (1) I don’t have the inclination to visit the library, and (2) the web of nets is faster.

Anyway, I was surfing again on the web of nets and came across another remarkable comment by reformed journalist Guy Bergstrom, this time from a post on his blog back on October 11, 2011. I have to mention it, because this particular entry almost had me sitting down to write my stalled novel again.

He said it doesn’t matter what you’re writing: “spy thrillers, speeches, newspaper stories or romances about men in kilts” … the only thing readers truly care about is the journey you take them on.

Here I’ve been struggling to paint with words, and he says the roller coaster ride you take a reader on is more important than how pretty you’ve painted things.

In other words, story structure beats pretty words.

Wow … what a concept! All you other indie writers out there, are you listening? Readers want a thrilling ride.

Wait, there’s more!

Finding the Key to Success

October 2, 2013


I’m tired of writing about writing for the moment. I’m bogged down at something short of 40,000 words on my REICHOLD STREET sequel.

I’m also having trouble with the other novel I’m working on. My thousand-words-a-day plan is at least three weeks behind, and I just don’t have the oomph to get started. My brain is fried.

It isn’t something new. I know, as every author knows, the writing business isn’t easy.

Indie authors may know it better than most, since they’re usually doing everything: writing, editing, formatting, cover and page design, print preparation, digital versions … and virtually everything else, including marketing and promotion.

I’m still trying different things to market the three books I’ve already produced. It’s a thankless, never-ending effort, but we still do it.


Every author, including the poor wannabe who’s still trying to deal with one publisher rejection after another, remembers what Frank Sinatra once said (even if they don’t know he said it):

“The best revenge is massive success.”

You’ll never find truer words, particularly when it comes to aspiring authors. Many suffer awful, degrading turndowns from traditional publishers, yet they still persevere. It’s happened to some of the biggest names in the business.

I took the time to look up some of those publisher rejections (like I said, it’s been a slow writing week, and my search for the muse often makes me wander to strange places).

Take a look at the following list of six well-known authors (and some of the nasty little notes publishers sent to them) and savor the taste of their sweet revenge.

Continue reading…

Earned Media Is All About Generating Free Exposure

September 26, 2013

Get Your Attention Right Here!
Earned media is really just the digital-age term for word-of-mouth advertising. It’s an idea that has grown hand-in-hand with content and social media marketing and the notion that a viral success can cheaply translate to mega-exposure.

Everyone wants earned media.

Marketing agencies know this, and they routinely pitch their ability to generate it. Most businesses, even small ones, are embracing the earned media paradigm to shape their social media strategies. Indie writers are no exception.

However, there are many misconceptions floating around the notion of earned media via the use of social media.

Earned Media Has a Number of Advantages
Many of them are obvious. (1) it’s “free,” in the sense that there’s no direct payment for the exposure provided; (2) it’s transparent, in that brands need not rely on intermediaries to measure it; and (3) it tends to create greater trust than paid or owned messages.

People trust the enthusiasm and recommendations of friends, acquaintances and professional networks more so than ads.

The Disadvantages Are Less Obvious
The real disadvantage has to do with earned media’s hidden cost. It requires investment in internal and external social media content generation. It takes time and effort.

Sometimes a lot of effort.

This week, I spent some time looking over past entries to my blog, because I thought they might make an interesting booklet if compiled and published together. One I could sell.

Looking at them, however, I noticed I keep talking about writing blogs and the Twitter and the Book of Face, as though they’re going to help, all by themselves in some magical way, reach out to fans, create a nice fan base and sell books.

I keep pushing new media as the be-all and end-all of promotion, completely forgetting the many years I spent dealing in old media to sell things.

Old media that worked.

It made me realize I’m not doing justice to readers who are looking for indie writing/publishing advice by pushing so hard on the new media tack without completing the story. Being an indie writer myself and talking about my experiences is not sufficient.

I do mention the need for word-of-mouth publicity, and I’ve written about earned publicity … not paid publicity. I just don’t do it enough.

Evaluate Social Media
When you consider maybe half the people in a social network will actually see a posting (assuming they aren’t following so much stuff they don’t have time to read any of it), and maybe one percent of those who see it will respond, and about five percent of the responders will buy, you’ll understand why marketing types today use this formula to evaluate social media:

(followers) x (50% see it) x (1% pay attention) x (5 % buy it) = sales.

Using this as gospel, you can figure out what the outcome will be for any given social networking post. For the sake of example, I’ve chosen an audience following of 100,000 (I should be so lucky). It works out something like this:

100,000 x 50% x 1% x 5% = 25

You read that right. Assuming you have something to sell, a posting to 100,000 followers on your social media site (your blog, the Twitter, the Book of Face, or whatever else you use) could possibly translate into 25 sales. Maybe.

Twenty-five. That’s it.

Considering all the time I spend on those sites, those numbers made me feel sick, too.

I have almost 2000 follows here. Another 1650 on The Twitter. Only about 53 on the Book of Face (I’m not real active there). I’m not at all sure about Pinterest or Tumblr or LinkedIn or any of the others I’m on and vaguely familiar with, so I won’t count them.

So let’s say it’s about 4000.

Let’s see … 4000 followers x 50% x 1% x 5% = 1.

Seems I’m way ahead of the curve with my actual sales, but it still isn’t promising. Mediocre is more like it. Never mind my first two books are award-winners. They don’t sell as well as I would hope.

So What Are We Supposed To Do?
There are scads of untalented hacks … people who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper sack with two sharpened pencils and an axe … who sell more books than some great writers.

And I’m not talking about books in some alternative universe. These untalented non-writers sell all kinds of books right here on good ol’ planet Earth: non-fiction and fiction.

What’s the secret? You know their name.

That’s it. Name recognition.

Nothing is more powerful. If you want to reach a mass audience, you must use mass media. Must. Not should.


You see, it doesn’t matter how good your book is … and why simply telling people how good it is on social media won’t, all by itself, help. It’s why someone like Glenn Beck (or whomever it is who writes his books for him), have books on the best seller list.

People know his name (the same is true of non-talented folks like the Kardashians, too … so I’m not just picking on you, Glenn).

Use the same formula I just gave you, but assume 200 million people around the world know your name. Go ahead, do the math.

(200,000,000 people) x (50% see it) x (1% pay attention) x (5% buy it) = 50,000 sales.

That’s a bestseller right there.

Quality doesn’t necessarily matter when exposure is that high.

But to reach the kind of volume you need to achieve those numbers, your plan has to include ideas for reaching out to every form of mass media: newspapers, magazines, blogs, radio and television.

And since you don’t have an automotive company’s marketing budget, you need earned media.

Earned Media
Earned media refers to favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising. In other words, free publicity.

Wait, you say. With social media, you can reach a mass media-type audience. Yes, but will you reach as big an audience? No.

But, you continue, everything you write will at least get out there, and the mass media may decide to cover something after spotting it in the wild, if enough people pick it up and repeat it.

That, Gentle Reader, is true.

Self-Serving Posts Don’t Get Read
But a common mistake is to treat social media as a monologue, and to make it self-centered. That’s why you see a lot of Book of Face pages that are often ‘me’ focused (including mine sometimes, sadly) and feeds on The Twitter that are just links to press releases.

In order for social media to be earned media means it isn’t something you wrote about you. You may start the conversation, but it’s a dialogue to which a lot of people contribute.

The best use of social media to try to achieve this … is to give your audience something. Inform them. Entertain them. Give them news they can use. Ask questions. Figure out why an average person would read what you’re saying. What would they get out of it? Indie authors trying to promote themselves should be no exception.

Give Your Audience the Best Value You Can
Then make it easy. By that, I mean make it simple … and make it easily found. Link things so whatever you post on your blog automatically gets on your Twitter feed, or on Tumblr, or the Book of Face … whatever you use. The more places the better.

Make it easy for other people to write and post content without jumping through a bunch of hoops.

Create a short video, put it on the You of Tubes and learn how easy it is to embed that video on your blog or put it on your Book of Face pages (I already do). Record a podcast and do the same experiment (I’m working on it).

The ideal system lets you write and post with the fewest steps possible, with your posting system linked to your other social media. Most new blogging platforms like WordPress will automatically sync with other social media like Book of Face and the Twitter, so every post you put up on your blog gets put on those other places, too.

Social media isn’t a replacement for earned media, but it’s a growing force for getting there and it’s becoming standard these days for any public figure or public figure wannabe.

If you’re in the public relations business … and, believe me, if you’re an indie writer trying to promote your writing you are … and you aren’t using social media, people today will look at you funny, as if you don’t believe in telephones.

You need to get dialogue going. More importantly, you need to have other people talking about you and your books. You absolutely need it.

Like my sons told me months ago, when they urged me to blog, tweet and Book on Face about my books … get into the 21st century, Pop.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


New York Review of Books – A Reminder
Look for the mention of my novel REICHOLD STREET in the September 26, 2013 Fall Books issue of The New York Review.


Creating Believable Characters
Don’t forget to click on the link in the right-hand column to get your copy of “Creating Believable Characters.” It was written specifically to aid writers with their character development and the price shouldn’t be a deterrent … it’s FREE.




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