Thursday, April 30, 2009

seeds and sprouts

It's happening again:

First, the what-if. It happened two nights ago while interacting in glorious conversation w/ people I've never met, faces I've never seen, yet bonding through the commonality of language and adoration. And yet, now that I look back on it, the seed had already been planted a day or two before that.

Then, the seed. I sketched the idea out late at night, just the basics. But I wrote nothing. I needed time to let the names and faces come to me. I needed time to listen to their voices. I needed them to whisper their truths to me.

Just now, as I walked, they came to me. Three of them, so far.

I've never had kids, nor do I ever want to, but I imagine that for many couples, finding out you are pregnant must feel an awful lot like the birth of a novel idea, minus the morning sickness. There's excitement. There's anticipation. There's anxiety. There's joy. There's a desire to announce it to the world in skywriting -- I've got a kick-ass idea for a novel! Title and everything! And there's a desire to have it born already, finished, perfect.

There's also the superstition that so many writers have, and I have it to a degree as well: Say nothing. Don't give specifics. Don't show anyone your work. It hasn't been born yet.

There's just one problem, though: I'm already pregnant.

That is to say, I already have another manuscript in draft form, and it too needs to be born. I have a co-writer (co-parent?) eager, anxious, excited. And I want to see that through first. I have a book needing to be delivered. I have a book that has already been fully born and needs my attention.

So, what's the point of this post?
I'm not sure, except that I wish I had more time and money. And dammit, I'm going to make the most out of these next three months.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

what I've learned about promoting a book -- some tips

Some neat discussion threads have been taking place on Facebook in regard to self-publishing and promotion (giving away books in exchange for reviews), and what motivates people to buy books in the first place (in terms of ads, word of mouth, attractive cover, etc.). While no one agreed on any one specific thing, I did see some patterns emerge:

First impressions: Namely, an attractive cover, title, and synopsis. There's even been some discussion lately about the impression an author's photo makes. People do, in fact, judge books by their covers, and I'm one of 'em. Or, at least, they make me pick a book up, read the synopsis, and open to the first page. If I'm not hooked by the second page, I'll move on to the next book.

As a self-published author, cover art is probably the thing I struggle w/ the most. Despite my one-time aspiration to be a graphic artist (w/ emphasis on packaging, believe it or not), I've lost the visual eye for such things, and I never learned the technology (in fact, the reason why I dropped out was because it became computerized, and I preferred getting my hands dirty w/ paints and pencils and paper). Also, I never included a photo w/ *Faking It* (couldn't get the formatting to work), and I don't know if that will hurt me.

Word-of-mouth: This was probably one of the most frequent answers. And this is good news, because it's the cheapest form of advertising and promotion there is. There's a trend called "viral marketing" whose purpose is to get everyone talking about the product. Social networking makes this easier than ever to do, so we self-published authors (and traditional, as well) live in good times.

I know that several *Faking It* owners are already passing the book around to their friends and families, and I'm totally fine w/ that. It's how books like Twilight got to be the sensations they are. Heck, I even remember, a long time ago, a book called *The Celestine Prophecy* that was being passed around like *The Secret* -- I didn't read it myself until about five years ago, and was surprised to find that it was quite poorly written and mediocre, at best. Then again, I'm not a huge fan of *The DaVinci Code*, either.

So, the trick, then, is to get the word out, or "put your name out there," as they say. Organize a blog tour. Participate in discussion forums. Schedule readings. Ask your friends to tell their friends. Twitter. And so on. And, this leads me to my next point:

Endorsements: Perhaps one of the most difficult things for an unknown writer to do is get her book into the hands of someone w/ more name recognition and inspire that person to offer an endorsement or recommendation of the book (better yet, if they do it w/out you even asking them to, you're golden!). Fans listen to their idols. Aaron Sorkin recommended an aspiring playright read Aristotle's Poetics (also known as *The Poetics*), and the playright ordered it from Amazon that same day (as did other forum readers, I'll bet -- even I have it on my summer reading list). And when Jennifer Weiner mentioned a specific book that she was reading on her Facebook page, it sparked a lot of chatter.

But have hope, readers; social networking makes this task a little less daunting, and if you've gotten your viral marketing-word-of-mouth campaign going, this is not such a longshot. Follow authors' Tweets and Facebook fan pages. Read their blogs and make comments. Mail them a copy of your book.

Finally, the most surprising response:
A review in People magazine.. I shit you not. Apparently, people has cornered the market on reliable book reviews in a way the The New York Times hasn't. I'm guessing People is targeting commerical fiction and nonfiction (I wouldn't know). What I might conclude is that reviews on sites like Amazon might also have some sway.

Above all, however, I cannot stress enough that first and foremost, you've got to have a manuscript that has been written and edited w/ care. The story, even before the cover and snazzy author photo, comes first. Because, as many readers shared, while the cover may entice a reader to pick the book up, it's the first sentence, or paragraph, or page that keeps that book from going back on the shelf. And you have to love your book more than anyone else. If you don't, neither will they. Love and nurture them like you do your children or your pets.

Good luck, writers. I feel validated once again that I'm on the right track, but I'm looking forward to putting more of these strategies in action, and I'll keep you posted of their outcomes. And please, if any of you have ideas for promotion, or have had success w/ a certain strategy, by all means, share!

Happy writing, reading, and selling, folks. :)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

dollar downloads are back!

Download Faking It (yes, the entire novel!) for just ONE DOLLAR at between now and April 30. And if you belong to a book club or know someone who does, stay tuned for a special offer...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

making plans

I came away from Henry Hutton's presentation at QRB (on using social networking to sell and promote your book) this past Saturday feeling yet again like I'm on track, yet not using these resouces to their fullest potential.

As you can see, the first thing I did when I got home was change the look of my blogpage. On one hand, I like it because it has that classic Blogger look. On the other hand, it has that classic Blogger look... is it blending in w/ too many other blogs now? Has it lost its originality?

Regardless, methinks that Kairos Calling's days are numbered. I've been hinting at this for awhile now, but I left the presentation feeling more certain than ever before. I started this blog a little over a year ago, and my purpose was to have a place to have the conversations about writing somewhere other than my personal blog. I figured, why not put it someplace where more people could read it? It wasn't until months later, when I made the decision to self-publish, that my purpose started shifting. Rather, it became more vague. Now I was talking about myself as an author. Now I had something else to say.

I was also more anonymous back then. No mas. I have a new intention: I'm a published author w/ books to promote and sell. I'm a marketer, a publicist, a self-starter. I have things to do as well as things to say.

Anyhoo, as previously stated, Kairos Calling's days are numbered. The blog is going to undergo transformation to be Elisa Lorello's blog, or the Faking It blog, or something more specific to my endeavors. I'm looking forward to the makeover, actually; it's going to coincide w/ my website makeover too.

As for Facebook, well, you know I've already drunk that kool aid (although, despite Mr. Hutton's advice to make one's profile page public, I'm keeping mine private and making use of the Faking It Fans page instead). And yes, beginning in May, I'm joining Twitter, too.

My twin brother and I had an interesting discussion about all of this. He argues that these social networking sites are destroying the written word, not to mention interpersonal relationships. I conceded some of his points, but reiterated that I had no qualms about riding the wave of its popularity in order to promote myself and my books. "The minute you tell me everybody's doing it is when I get really scared," he said.

I stood by my position, but felt the weight of his statement. The next day, as I discussed the importance of making valid claims with my students, I briefly mentioned logical fallacies, and when giving an example of Bandwagon, well, one came to me rather quickly: "Well, for example, when I argue that social networking is the way to go w/ marketing my book because everybody's doing it," I suggested.

Was I wrong? Is it a logical fallacy? Or is it a very real truth? I honestly can't be sure.

Nevertheless, as soon as this semester is over, my other career kicks in full time, and I can hardly wait. There's a lot to be done, and I'm excited about all of it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

is there such a thing as a postive rejection?

I think so. But the moment I saw my first name misspelled on the front of the package, I knew there was no good news inside.

I'll not give names, but I recently had the opportunity to get my novel into the hands of an executive editor at a major publishing company. It was one of those opportunities that I didn't necessarily seek out, but the brass ring sort of appeared in the situation.

Of course, I was hoping to announce on this blog that I just signed a six-figure book deal with said publisher. I imagined it every day since sending the book, did my best to align my energies and intentions, etc.

But interestingly, the last couple of days, my intuition was telling me that maybe it wasn't going to go my way. And then this afternoon, I found a slip in my mailbox informing me that a package awaited me in the main office of my apartment complex. As I walked the quarter mile (actually, it may be closer to a half), I imagined what awaited me: perhaps it was a book from an author friend of mine? Maybe an Easter gift from someone? And then, interestingly enough, my inner voice spoke clear as day: it's the publishing company -- they're returning your book w/ a rejection letter.

How that came to me, I have no idea. But, sure enough, after I signed for the package and saw the logo on the label, w/ my first name blatently misspelled (as I mentioned above), I didn't wait until I was back to my apartment to open it, but rather multi-tasked in the form of walking and opening the thick envelope, where a letter was attached to my novel.

The editor praised me as "a very good writer, with nice energy and good pacing," and credited me with creating "a couple of very endearing characters in Andi and Devin."
Wow. Nice.

But of course, what followed was the opinion that despite this, the novel lacked "a bit more complexity" that other titles in this publisher's list contained. And, of course, the editor recommended I show it to agents who might be able to find a better fit.

Of course, my first reaction was, "But you haven't read Ordinary World! That's where the complexity is. That's when the characters really start to dig deep." And yet, I don't think this editor's assessment is false by any means. In fact, I think he's pretty much on the money. And it's not that he's saying that my novel lacks any complexity or depth whatsoever. Just not "more."

I have to say that I take rejection from editors and agents much better than I do from dates. And yet, that being said, of course I am disappointed. The convertible Volkswagon Beetle I was going to buy with my advance money is going to have to wait. All kidding aside, however, a rejection is still a rejection. But I was left feeling more resolve than disappointment, for I saw some very good signs:

- I got it on record that an expert in the traditional publishing industry recognizes and acknowledges my talent and that I am a worthy, viable competitor in this market. It's always nice to be validated in this way.
- I can stay on the course of self-publishing and publicity and still get somewhere.
- Maybe I should revisit the agent query.

Turning to this last bullet point for a moment, it got me wondering if I have more leverage now to take the book, and its momentum, to a few select agents and try one more time to get the book into their hands. Or to query both Faking It and Ordinary World at the same time. My position has been that I exhausted my chances w/ FI, and I had never queried OW because it seemed strange to query a sequel when I couldn't get a bite for its predecessor.

But I know more now than I did then. And I'm much more confident. And, as I said, I have a little bit more momentum. I was going to wait until my current manuscript was ready for querying before going the agent route again, but I wonder...

Should I?

Because you never know--maybe that's what this rejection is all about. Maybe it's the key to unlock a different door.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

no foolin' in April

I've just looked at the number of posts for March and I'm disappointed in myself. The numbers are dwindling. However, I fear this month they will be even worse because the semester is winding down and I'm going to pretty much be reading and/or grading papers from now until the end of the semester. Thus, my goal for this month is to do at least one post a week. I'm also going to feature a Q&A with the aforementioned Heather Grace Stewart, a Canadian poet who has great taste in television shows and understands the balancing act of family life and writing life.

In the meantime, when not knee-deep in student-drafted annotated bibilographies and exploratory topic proposals and field research reports, I have been looking at the gallies for Ordinary World and making corrections. One thing that has come to my attention is that I have a rather unhealthy obsession w/ semi-colons. My twin brother once told me that semi-colons were invented by academics and not very useful. I wouldn't go that far--I rather like them, but I like chocolate cake, too. Doesn't mean I should be eating a whole one night after night.

I'm also still doing the best I can to promote Faking It, and to spread the word. The You Tube hits for the Artist's Craft interview are at 105 (100 of them are mine... Seriously though, I check in every few days, so a small number really does belong to me). I'm glad to see this, and hoping it's planting seeds, at the very least.

Finally, I'm seriously thinking about joining Twitter. My main motivation is to get the word out about Faking It. Apparently many authors are taking advantage of this. (I also think it would be fun to follow, among other people, Josh Malina.) My fear, however, is that I'll never leave my house again. Ever. That I'll lose my job. It's bad enough that I wake up in the morning thinking about my Facebook status. It's bad enough that I'm starting to think of myself in the third person, that I'm tempted to comment on student papers, "Elisa likes this" w/ a thumbs up symbol.

It got me thinking, though. Anthony S. Policastro's blog mentions the need to write a page every day. One of my very first posts was about the question of writing every day. I argued then, and I argue now, that blogging counts. Writing in your diary counts. Does Twitter count? Does contributing to the conversation on a forum count? Does writing in 140 characters or less count? I think it does. Because while I'm doing this seemingly insignificant, "low stakes" writing, I am composing another scene, another paragraph, listening to another piece of dialogue, and so on, in my head. You can chop vegetables while the meat is marinating, after all... What do you think?

Anyhoo, hope this post ties you over for now. More to come. Hang in w/ me,, please!