How to Avoid Promotional Black Holes

August 1, 2017

Photo Courtesy Pixabay.

There are so many potential pitfalls that writers must navigate, even seasoned authors can make mistakes marketing a book today.

With hundreds of errors to choose from, here are my choices for seven of the worst ones …

Don’t Have a Web Site
This is a biggie. Authors absolutely need a web site. Traditional publishers expect their clients to have one, and it’s just as necessary … maybe more so … for an independent.

Aesthetics matter, too … and whatever you do, don’t let it get outdated. Updating your site regularly will help with search engine optimization (SEO), which is important to establishing your brand and getting your work out there.

Don’t Play Nice With Others
Another biggie. Other writers are not competitors or enemies. You should be reaching out to collaborate with them. As a community, you’re stronger when you share ideas and support one another (I’ve interviewed other authors on this blog, to help them promote their work … and I’ll do it again, because it all helps).

Don’t Have an Elevator Speech
I’ve said this often, and I’m always surprised when I discover the number of author wannabes who don’t have one ready. You never know when you will be chatting with someone and have an opportunity to mention your book(s). Have a 15-20-second soundbite ready, and share it as often as possible.

Ignore the Power of Reviews
Secure reviews with Kirkus Reviews, Foreword Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Readers’ Favorite, Blue Ink, TopBookReviewers, and others. Some you will have to pay for … but if your work is strong you will find they are like gold. You can never have enough.

Ignore Resources at Your Disposal
Writers fall short when they don’t join useful groups. For instance, I’m a member of the National Writers Association, the Association of Independent Authors, Michigan Writers and the American Academy of Poets. Other fabulous group resources are Independent Book Publishers, the Writers Guild (East and West), and PEN America. Get an author listing on Goodreads, too.

Your Head Isn’t in the Game
Lazy authors are not successful ones. Neither are authors whose ego is so huge they simply fail to hustle. Don’t get blinded by an inflated sense of self-worth. Tone it down, get off your high horse, and be ready to do whatever it takes to get your book out there.

You Don’t Go All In
Don’t say you already have a Facebook presence, when all you did is put up a profile. You need to engage and interact. Think about relevant visuals, personal stories, provocative statements. Be flexible, but don’t scream BUY MY BOOK! Be a friend, not a salesman.

I’ve found the book industry to more social than others in many ways. So, do the socially expected things following a book signing, classroom visit, or speaking engagement. Give the organizers a thank you card … maybe even a shareable goodie of some sort.

It not only makes your host feel good, it gives you a personal energy boost you can tap for weeks. Think of book marketing as doing honor to your work, and the work of others.

Try it. It works.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

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Check out my DEAD END STREET review

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I plan to attend the next Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How Well Do You Use Metaphor?

July 11, 2017


I talked the other day about the use of metaphor adding richness and texture to your language. The strongest metaphors illuminate complex or abstract concepts by translating them into striking images that resonate with readers.

They stand out.

It was Aristotle who said that mastering metaphors is a “sign of genius.” When you create metaphors that are clear, concise, vivid and relatable your readers will do more than understand your meaning … they’ll experience the thrill of discovery.

Consider these examples:

    * “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
      ~ Truman Capote

    * “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
      ~ Plutarch

To understand how to use them, if you were to ask yourself what love smells like, what answers might you come up with?

The aroma of chicken roasting in your grandmother’s oven? Freshly cut roses? Your wife’s favorite perfume?

All these things can represent love in a metaphor, because of people’s mental associations with the underlying question. But, of course, love doesn’t actually have an aroma.

Avoid Cliches
Sometimes writers select an image that, while powerful, actually contradicts the underlying message. It’s possible to overwork a metaphor. Stale, overused metaphors don’t resonate with readers. Instead, they become cliches. Select images not merely because they’re powerful, but because they’re apt. Be careful of cliches.

Consider these:
He’s like a bull in a china shop … or
Always go after the low-hanging fruit.

Powerful images … used far too much.

Assess your work using this standard of excellence: Is it clear, concise, tangible, vivid and relatable?

“That horse’s ass would beat the sun awake with a stick, if he could.”

“Townies tended to have multiple tattoos, pierced body parts and hair the various colors of Jell-O.”

The first is a line from my novel Blood Lake (a Readers’ Favorite Bronze Medal Winner), and I don’t think you need the rest of the character description to have a sense of what Luther was like. The second comes from my short story Zebulon (a Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal Winner).

Both of them tell us a lot about the characters. When your metaphors are strong, you’ll forge intimate relationships with your readers. The kind marked by shared discovery and reflection.

What writer among us doesn’t want that?

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

Check out my DEAD END STREET review

**********

I plan to attend the next Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Where Do Creative Ideas Come From?

July 1, 2017


Okay, you say, I’ll bite … where do great ideas come from?

The answer might surprise you.

In Paul McCartney’s biography, he shared this secret: “… John often had just the first verse which was always enough. It was the direction … the signpost … the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word, but it was the template.”

In other words, the most successful rock band in history, The Beatles, used a formula to create blockbuster songs. They’re not the only ones. Many artists, songwriters and authors … yes, authors, use templates of some form.

For instance, Agatha Christie, one of the best-selling authors ever, wrote over 60 novels by using a template to help structure her thinking in a way that made her more creative.

We tend to think of inventors like this as another species … geniuses … who have sudden flashes of insight.

I’ve written several award-winning books myself, but I can’t think of a single instance when a light bulb went off in my head, leading to some killer new idea.

Is that because creatively I’m a dud?

Perhaps. Alternatively, it might be because Eureka Moments are the stuff of legend, and innovation is often a slow and iterative process.

What, exactly, is involved in said process? One decades-old theory says that the crux of creativity lies in making analogies.

Analogies? Yes, just like those SAT questions you used to hate: Crumb is to bread as…splinter is to wood. That kind of thing.

Two Schools of Thought
Creative people, so the theory goes, are constantly connecting old knowledge and experiences to new situations. There are two schools of thought about where ideas come from.

One is the “artist-as-antenna” concept, in which ideas float in some barely perceptible ether waiting for someone to pick them up, the way a radio picks up a song when it’s tuned to just the right frequency. This is Keith Richards waking up in the middle of the night with the main riff from “Satisfaction” fully-formed in his head.

The second school holds that ideas are the product of hard work and thoughtful concentration. Sit down and think, and don’t get up until you have something! This school is the writer grinding out his four pages a day, or the mad poet storming up and down the street in search of the perfect word.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle – we get ideas from within ourselves and from without – or more to the point, from the interaction of the two.

I believe it is in the active engagement of the artist with the world that ideas are born:

    Preparation: Ideas come to those who are prepared to receive them, whatever the origin. Scientists have ideas about science. Accomplished musicians have melody ideas that translate into beautiful songs, and skillful writers create daring novels that illuminate our lives … but those who haven’t prepared themselves to be creative rarely are.

    Attention: Paying attention to the world around us is one source of ideas. You’ve heard the saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” – but it also takes someone paying close enough attention to recognize that need in the first place.

    Curiosity: Creativity often comes from the drive to understand and take things apart, literally or figuratively. It stems from the desire to know “what if…” and to follow that question until it goes somewhere interesting.

    Effort: Creativity takes a commitment to work. “Ideas are cheap,” the saying goes. “Execution is hard.” Ideas need to be captured, followed up on, and committed to a plan of action, or they disappear back to wherever they came from … and they rarely come back.

    Serendipity: Serendipity is really two things. First, it’s what you might expect … the luck of being at the right place at the right time … to be Isaac Newton under the tree at exactly the moment the apple falls. The second, more important part, is the openness to make connections between unrelated events … to see in a bathtub a lesson about physics. How many millions of baths were taken before Archimedes had his “Eureka!” moment?

These aren’t God-given gifts reserved to the few. These are all things each of us, as writers, can cultivate. They apply to just about everyone who faces situations calling for creative responses.

Start making a conscious effort to develop these elements, and I bet you’ll soon start engaging with your world more creatively. In fact, I’m certain it will show up when you write.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

I plan to attend the next Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

**********

A few days ago (June 27), my bride and I celebrated our 47th Wedding Anniversary. Thank you, Mary Lu. I love you.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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