Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Craziness

Yet again, another Black Friday has come and gone. Every year, as the pictures of crazy crowds fill the nightly news, I always wonder if a I am missing out. Not for the reason you might suspect. I would never be a consumer on such a day. Black Friday is about big deals…but it also brings huge crowds. It, therefore, would be tempting to do a book signing…especially in a mall’s bookstore. I wonder if my sales would increase, or if the crowd would be too focused on their Christmas list.

I remember when I was first starting out. One of the newest Harry Potter books had just come out. I made a deal with the bookstore that I would arrive right when they opened early for the new release. I sold twice as many books on that morning. It was great. It helped that I was selling The Curse of Atlantis, which is a fantasy story. But I gained larger access to a readership looking to buy. I wish I could think this savvy on a regular basis.

This event makes me curious if Black Friday would be similar. But, every year, I don’t think of it in time. Or, perhaps I am a chicken underneath. I mean…those people on the news are crazy! In either cause, I hope every one of you had a marvelous holiday weekend. I wish you all the very best as the shopping season has just begun. And, as you shop, maybe purchase a book from a new author. Books make perfect gifts, after all. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Transitioning to Short Stories

One of my discussion groups posed the question, how do you go from writing short stories to writing novels? I know one of my friends is struggling with that right now. He has had numerous flash fiction pieces picked up, so much so that a publisher ask him to pitch them a novel idea. The problem? He can’t seem to tackle the novel. I find this interesting because I have the exact opposite problem. As I stated in an earlier post, I can write the long story no problem. In fact, sometimes publishers have told me that the word count is too high. That of course was before I entered the fantasy genre. I loved when I found publishers who began stating that large word counts did not frighten them. In a fantasy workshop, one person suggested fantasy was about the creation of worlds. This takes words, my friends, and a lot of them.

Anyway, my posting on this discussion was I don’t know how to make that particular transition. However, I have slowly begun to understand how to go the other way and write shorter pieces. I actually think my dedication to blogging these past months has helped contribute to the realization. It happened as I was preparing a sample of my writing to submit to an online program. They requested a thousand words—half the typical word count for a short story contest. As I was holding my curser and highlighting the scene, I began to realize that a thousand words ended up being about half a chapter. Then I started thinking about it. Short stories are really just chapters. They have more of a finalization than a chapter. Yet, if I think hard about it, most of the short stories I have read don’t really have a “and they lived happily ever after” finality to them. They are snap shots into the character’s life. They really are just chapters taken out of context.

With this in mind, I wrote my latest short story. Before, I would have been pressured to present a beginning, middle, and end. I would have tortured myself with the morals and character development. This is daunting. The more I thought, the more complex the story became. And, of course, the more complex the story became the more it sounded like a textbook biography rather than a riveting story in effort to reach a small word count.

The other issue that has always troubled me with short stories is that they seem to be the place to show off. Literary devices are strongly encouraged and the fluff of language is a necessity. I used to shy away from this, but have felt rejuvenated after this year of learning and reading. I still have a long way to go to reach any position to brag about my description power, but I have seen enough improvement to think I can stand the challenge. I only hope the magazine I am submitting the story to will agree.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Trailers

My computer crashed early this year. Besides an incredibly touchy mouse pad, I thought I had finally gotten things back on track. A few weeks ago, I realized I had lost yet another object: the trailers to my novels. I know many authors who create their own videos, but I am not technologically savvy so had paid decent money to Trailer to the Stars for their renditions. Unfortunately, two years ago, before trailers even crossed my mind, I set up automatic backup restrictions by deselected music and video files. They take up too much memory and I didn’t really need it. This realization at their absence cut at me, reminding me how much of a dork my decision making abilities can reflect.

I emailed the woman who did my videos and, by the grace of God, she still had them. As always, the universe is very ironic. In one of my discussion groups this week, authors posed the value of having book trailers. Some didn’t see the importance behind the project. Trailers seem to work very well for the movies. They drive ticket sales and hype up a short-term following at the release. Why not for books? For some reason, this doesn’t seem to work as a strictly marketing tool. For instance, my trailers have been online for about a year and have only accumulated a couple hundred views. In this way, I would agree with the discussion online.

Where I see the value comes in other areas. Book signings is the first area. I remember signing at Borders…let’s all give a moment of silence for the departure of that store...and found people walking past me without ever acknowledging me, even when I’d smile at them. If I said “Hi,” that resulted in a quick response before their footsteps quickened their departure. In many ways, I felt like a cardboard cutout. Shortly after, I went to a multi-author signing. One man had a computer set up and his trailer played on a loop. Watching the result amazed me. People began passing until the computer screen slowly lassoed them and pulled them over to his table. When I played my videos at signings, I found the same result. For someone who is uncomfortable shouting across the aisle of a mall (the way I watched another author work), videos are a passive way to help draw attention.  I saw a small increase in sales as a result.

The second way I’ve seen trailers used in on book sites such as Goodreads. It seems more and more, I am distracted by a moving add on the side of my update feed. I would love to see the numbers on whether these increase book sales, but the fact it attracts attention leads me to think that maybe it could. For me, I love my trailers and was happy to get them back. But they don’t work for everyone. I think it just depends on the author and how they work a crowd.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Entrepreneur Spirit

When I entered college, I was undecided on what degree to pursue. I always knew I wanted to write novels, but there is no set job for that. It’s more freelance and hard to do full time for even the most prominent of writers. So, I set off to college for a degree, fulfilling society’s requirements after high school. There was no way I could talk my father into a creative writing degree. I didn’t want an English degree because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be an editor for my day job. I was interested in a literature degree—although I have no idea what I would have done with it—but it was only at Arizona State University. For a small town girl, this was a little scary. So, I entered the business college at Northern Arizona University. I had imagined I could use the degree to get a job in the book industry. It didn’t take me long to figure out the majority of the topics didn’t appeal to me.

So, after two years, I took a personality/career test. I laughed at the results. The top five were some sort of teaching field (none of which math, which is what I do now). But I remember being baffled at “Entrepreneur.” I took it to mean one part of me was meant for business, but I really should go into teaching, so I did and immediately enjoyed school again. On days I struggle with the teaching profession—the stresses, the requirements, the misbehavior—I think back on that one business result. I used to dream about opening a restaurant, like that would be an easy solution. It wasn’t until this weekend that I realized this result has nothing to do with “business” in the traditional sense.

Writers, I realized, must be Entrepreneurs. But, instead of running a building and people, they are selling themselves. We are the traveling salesman, carrying our boxes of books to different locations in the hopes of success. At the signing I did this weekend, I had someone ask why my publisher doesn’t market for me. Part of my answer sounded like a playground child, but the other part was simple: any publisher will ask the authors to sell their work nowadays. They just don’t have a big budget for it. Some publishers do more than others, but authors can’t just stay in a room and write. They have to get out and sell, too. This is scary for someone who prefers solitary.

We have to think of marketing tools and advertising. We have to think of branding and getting our name out there. We have to “think outside the box” doing things others do while making up our own paths in hopes of hitting something big. We are Entrepreneurs. Knowing this, I am glad to know that, while I struggle, I have a piece of this characteristic in me. It will suit me well in the profession I continually choose to pursue.