Friday, September 23, 2011

In Awe of Multi-Taskers

This week is an open topic, so I thought I’d offer a few thoughts from my book tour to promote the release of Hunters.

Probably the one thing that stands out is the blogging. Many of the tour stops have been guests blogs, such as Mad Moose Mama, Lissette Manning. I’ll be the first to admit that, even though I’ve been writing for more than three decades, these blogs are kicking my ass.

This is why I’m in awe of bloggers who multi-task by writing more than one blog. I wonder how they keep their subjects and topic straight. More importantly, I wonder how they avoid bleeding, by which I mean having one blog topic spill over into another so it looks like one of those chain letters you get at election time.

I’m serious. During football season, I cover multiple college games and write separate articles about each game, usually doing write-ups of 5-6 games. Each one has to be tailored to a specific game.

This experience has nothing on blogging.

With the sports, I know specifically what to look for. For example, I can look at tonight’s game between Hampton and Bethune-Cookman and see how fumbles, interceptions and penalties decided the game.

Not so with blogging. I find myself scouring my brain for a topic for the blog. Since there’s typically nothing substantive in my head, this is a harder process than it seems. Thank goodness Roxanne Rhoads, the coordinator for this tour, has given me some topics. Other times, however, I go to the blogs themselves, see what kind of articles are being done and try to tailor my guest blog to that format.

I certainly thank these blog sites for giving me the time to hawk my wares and speak to their subscribers and fans.

And I certainly thank them for giving me the (badly needed) experience of writing for multiple blogs.

So, how about you, the reader? Do you write for multiple blogs? If so, how do keep everything straight?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chatting About YOUR Book

This week we were given a choice on topics because some of us already posted about the query letter process and didn't want to do it again, I even went so far last spring as to post my very first rejection letter.

Instead, I plan to talk about selling yourself and your novel in basic converstaion. I'm not talking about an elevator pitch to an agent, I'm talking about to a potential reader, which in my mind is much more important.

First and foremost, we are all readers -- get that important fact through your head. Some of us may be more well-versed about speaking on the concepts of the craft (the writerly folks) and others only have time to read emails, but we all are essentially readers at one base level. If someone isn't reading a book right now it could be for many reasons: their work or home schedule, health issues, or sheer lack of interest in reading (the latter being much harder to overcome).

I had the pleasure of reading an interview from a former co-blogger of mine, Sharon Hamilton, where she interviewed the succulent eye-candy man himself, Jimmy Thomas. When he revealed he doesn't read anything but his emails I lost a lot of respect for him. I admire his work ethic, his attitude, his martial arts skills (a love since my first Tae Kwon Do class when I was five)… but to tout over and over about being on so many book covers and you don't even like to read books? Even if it was another genre… something!!

That's like being the cover model for the number one selling clothing line in the world and you refuse to wear it.

Okay, I digress, back to the topic… how do you discuss your books? First off, develop a rapport with the person. It's also called "make casual conversation". Could be about the weather, about the game last night -- whatever. The first thing you need to do is get someone talking.

I do this everywhere I go, with every person I'm standing next to for more than five seconds. Much to my husband's amusement (he no longer is shocked), I'll even talk to the people at the table next to us at a restaurant. Sometimes, it's just a pleasant passing comment in an elevator, other times it is an actual back and forth exchange. If you are unpracticed in this art form, you will need to read cues from the other person. Do they refuse eye contact? Do they nod and not verbally answer? Is their tone clipped and they seem distracted?

You never know what someone is going through in their lives at any given moment, so be respectful. If they send out the signs they don't want to chat, leave them be. Read body language. We all have the innate ability to do this, it's just that most of us have become so damn lazy with acknowledging our fellow human we need to brush up our skills and remember our manners.

Before you attempt to start talking to strangers in the grocery store check out line or the waiting room at your doctor's office, you must know one very important thing: your target audience for your book. I'm not saying you don't chat up the bulky delivery guy with the clip board because you write a romance, but I am saying analyze the person and accept that they might not be your target, but I bet they have a family member who is.

Understanding if they are your target audience or not will make the difference in how you approach them on the topic of your book. If you did your research, you know you market well and you know the people who watched ____ movie, live in ____, or like ____ sport or activity will also like your book.

Granted, this concept of talking to people will not always garner an opening where you can steer the conversation around to your book, but even if it doesn't, by speaking to lots of people you get past your introverted shell and start to feel more comfortable talking to others in a public place.

I honed this skill for years in sales. This is not an ability you will pick up over night. Be patient and swallow your fear. Do you want me to tell you how I know these things? I was almost abducted when I was seven. I ran when the man tried to pull me into the car. It gave me a unique perspective at a very young age about the wisdom in not traveling alone and to make connections with your fellow human being for safety.

I started talking to people around me simply because there is safety in numbers. If you said hello to the large solitary gentleman in the overcoat, or the tired mother of three, they may be more likely to step in if you were harassed in the hallway by a group of hoods. We're stronger when we stand together.

It's human nature. You can't easily avert an eye to someone's situation after you have made a personal connection. I honed this Chatty-Cathy side of myself in an effort to be safe, and it worked. Of course, I learned the hard way in a pre-Giuliani NYC that making eye contact and meeting the world head on was a no-no, but hey, we all have to learn life's hard lessons ;-)

Now, let's move on to the point where you've practiced your small talk and you no longer seize in panic when you have to speak to a stranger. Notice them, see if they carry a newspaper, a magazine, a book, or an ereader. No visible clue they might be a reader? Ask if they saw something on TV "did you catch that local story on….?"

What I've found works best is if you talk about something obvious about them -- "Those are great shoes, where did you get them?"; simply "that's a nice coat"; "That color looks great on you" (okay, that last one works best if it's between two women, but you get the idea).

Use your observation skills to keep the conversation going. Learn to steer a conversation graciously. Don't just bumble out with "What do you like to read?" unless you have the spectacular opening of seeing them with an actual book, newspaper, or magazine.

Good God, now that I really sit down and write this post, I see I would do better teaching a damn class on it -- which is essentially what I did when I used to teach sales to a bunch of corporate types. Essentially, it's all about making a connection. How about I list some bullet point ideas and you try your best.

  • Make an observation to start a conversation (game, weather, clothing, book they are holding)
  • Ask questions to get them engaged and answering you
  • Pay attention to body language and responses, shut up if they are not open to talking and leave them be
  • Share an anecdotal story that is short and will help you relate to them (example: if they are a mom with a crying kid, talk about your own issues with the rugged nap-time/refusing to nap)
  • Carry a Kindle, have one in your hand or purse -- if it draws their eye they will ask. If not you can ask "have you tried one of these yet?" then formulate responses based on how the conversation is going "Oh, your cousin has one? What do they say about it?"
  • Within a few exchanges about reading you can mention your book

Is it really that simple? Yes, it is. Carry lots of business cards and have the book's description printed on the back. Don't be shy in saying "Here, can I give you this for your cousin?" be self depreciating and honest "The publishing industry is changing so much right now, the best way to spread the word and reach readers is to shamelessly hand out my card." And smile when you say it, be genuine. I know I sure as hell am. 

That fact that a total stranger took the time to talk to me about anything for two minutes makes me feel like a winner. After all, who the hell am I? Just some damn pushy redhead.

When talking about yourself or your work be sure to remember -- make a connection first. Stop if they seem uninterested. Hold your head up proudly, there is no reason you need to feel awkward about what you have done in creating a book. Sure, if it has explicit sex in it like mine do there is that weird moment that may clutch your heart when you have to admit what you write, but hey -- if I survived it, then so can you.

Wishing you all the best and may you go forth and converse!

Have any funny stories you'd like to share about trying to talk about your book? Please share! I always enjoy knowing I'm not the only one who has crashed and burned so spectacularly.

~~ C.J. Ellisson ~~
Guest Speaker at Vamps at Sea – a Vampire Themed Cruise to Alaska

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Coming Attractions

So, I made a decision earlier this summer to embark on the epublishing / self publishing path. I hold open the option to publish my novels the traditional way, but for the next twelve months, I'm going to concentrate on getting my work out there for public consumption.

This is something I've been thinking about for at least six months, and many factors went into this decision. First and foremost, I can't build an audience unless I give an audience something to read. Second, science fiction is a very small piece of the book/fiction market. Third, cyberspace is well-suited and better suited, for target marketing and genre fiction. Fourth, no matter the path we choose, marketing and building brand is still pushing a boulder uphill.

My first releases were at the end of June 2011, my free reads: Plantgirl, Translations and Small Graces. I did OK for not marketing them much besides some tweets here and there, my blog and my website. Most of the response was very positive and I made a few fans, more than I had before. Links for download can be found on my website:, or on my blog:

So, I decided my next release would be Semper Audacia. As an ebook, I was no longer constrained by word count and blossomed this space opera story into a novelette. It'll be my first release on Amazon, and will also be released on Smashwords and B&N, same as the free reads. Semper just came back from the editor. Yea! I have very little to do to it, but I have to get the first three chapters of Stopover polished and get Semper formatted. I'm now setting a release date ... October 4th.

Alone. Leda is the last living member of the brigade, the sole defender of her world. War took everyone she knew, leaving her in the company of memories and ghosts. Or is it madness?

The siren blares. The enemy is coming. Or is it? The approaching vessel isn't a friendly design, but it answers with the correct code. Leda must figure out whether the arrival is reinforcements or the final assault. In an aging flyer, she ventures out to meet her world's fate, the last stand.

The release after Semper Audacia will be the first in a series of space opera novellas, Stopover at the Backworlds' Edge. I've completed the first draft and am polishing the first three chapters to add to the end of Semper Audacia. I also started on the first draft of the second novella in this series. I anticipate releasing Stopover by the end of this year. Yea!

Humanity, bioengineered humanity created to deal with different environments, has spread out to other stars and planets in the galaxy, called the Backworlds. In the far future Craze's Tavern sits on a backworld's backworld at the fringes of expansion. Last stop for one hundred fifteen light years, Pardeep Station is a heap of dust and little more.

The lepper opens, bringing in a ship that should no longer exist. Stamped with the Foreworlds' mark as if spoiling for battle yet the war ended two generations ago. The vessel drops off a Water-breather, a type of backworlder thought to be extinct. She brings rumors and subterfuge, danger and troubles. Craze knows he has stepped into her trap the moment she walks into his bar. His only hope is that it isn't too late to find a way out.

Still tweaking the blurb copy for Stopover and will be redoing the story trailer.

My most popular download has been Plantgirl. It won me my first fan when I read it at the library over a year ago. So based on that story, I'm creating a second series of novellas and am about halfway through the first draft of the first story. As of yet, it's untitled.

My goal is to get out two to three novellas in each series in the next twelve months. For special deals, sneak peeks and more, you can sign up for my newsletter.

If you'd like to help me promote my release, leave me a comment. :D

What about you? What career plans have you made?

~M. Pax
The stars are the beginning ...
website / blog

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing and Pulling Teeth

It's personal topic week at the Wicked Writer's blog and it couldn't have come at a better time for me. Boy. Yeah. Okay. So I somehow convinced myself that Book 2 would be easier to write than Book 1. You know, I'm wiser now. Book 1 was hard because I was new to writing novels. I was still learning. But I know exactly what I'm doing now.

So why does writing the dang sequel feel like pulling teeth? And why am I still using cliches like "pulling teeth"?!?!

*Facepalm followed by headdesk*

When you're a writer looking up at all the published authors sitting on their pedestals, all shiny and important, you might think "man, life must be so easy for them, with their fancy royalty checks." Truth is, we're all just writers. We all make peanuts for a living. And when all is said and done, each new manuscript still begins with two words:  Chapter One.

....Followed by a good ripping of the hair, lots of caffeine, and a hefty dose of insanity....

What's a writer to do?

Remember the reasons why you started writing the first place. Yeah, remember those? The good ol' days when it was fun and magical and every word felt like a roller-coaster ride on a gold-tinted rainbow? When you were an artist and every scene came from the heart. You didn't care about grammar or point-of-view or if all your characters' names started with the same letter because to you it was perfect. Every flaw was somehow right. You did that, you made that, and it was awesome.

Remember that feeling. Hold it close. Bathe in it. Eat it for breakfast. Sit down at your computer and say to yourself "Today I am writing for me, and I don't care if no one likes what I write because I love it and that is all that matters!".

J.D. Brown
Website ~ Blog ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is Print Dead? Part 2

Just in time to back up my blog this past week comes this article from the Atlantic Wire. It deals with the booming ebook industry.

You can link to the article here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Is Print Dead? I'm Afraid to Look Anymore

I’m scared.

I’m not afraid to admit it.

Why am I scared?

Because of the coming death of my industry, namely print publishing.

You all know me as a science fiction and horror writer, with a dose of fantasy and western thrown in. But, before I became known for fiction, I was first a print journalist.

I’ve seen a lot of things in the industry in my 30 years covering the news, including the looming death knell of newspapers. They've only begun to listen but it seems like it's too late for them to catch up with the 21st century. Too bad for so many of my former colleagues who stayed the course, while those who jumped ship and changed professions now look like Mensa whizzes.

The owners -- namely the big publishers and the syndicates like L.A. Times, Knight-Ridder, Tribune, McClatchey -- all felt that the Internet was a passing fad and they failed to embrace it. Sort of like when IBM dismissed the personal computer as a fad and then struggled (and failed) to play catch up when the PC took over the typewriter/processor industry.

When I was with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, we belatedly took a flyer with the Internet, in the form of me posting high school football scores online, while the newsroom posted a few top stories online. Of course, those were only meant to tease readers into buying a newspaper.

In the past decade, newspapers have been bleeding red ink. Periodicals that were founded more than a century ago have faded away like the Clipper ship and Pan-Am. Others, like the Boston Globe and Philadelphia Enquirer, struggle to hang on. Most newspapers have drastically cut staff much like my old employer, the Star-Telegram, did back in 2008.

Cut to the present. The publishing industry is treading the same pathway that newspapers did, right toward the same cliff.

The North American Big Six -- Hachette, McMillan, Penguin, Random House,  HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster -- still cling to an old business model, missing the obvious signs. One big sign is that three of those Big Six aren’t really North American, though they used to be. Hachette is French, HarperCollins is under News Corp’s umbrella and German conglomerate Bertelsmann bought Random House in 1998.

You see, it’s common among big business to cling tighter to models that proved successful in the past, but are not quite so successful in the present. This leaves the companies open to takeovers. However, international ownership hasn’t made much improvement.

Despite all the ebooks being sold on Kindle and Nook, the Big Six seem to shun online publishing. If they sign an author, they go for ebook rights as well. Then, they’ll undercut the ebook price or shelve the ebook edition. Many times, they won't even consider signing an author whose work has mainly been online. 

You can’t blame them too much, though. They are profit-driven corporations and a 35 percent cut from each sale of a $20-25 book is more appealing than a similar percentage from a $2.99 ebook like Hunters.

It’s a shame because we know both mediums can co-exist. There will always be people who want to have a paperback in their hands at the beach or on the plane. There will be people who have libraries in their homes that need books to fill the shelves. But, there will also be many more, especially in the up-and-coming generations, who will fully embrace the online world (they're the ones who go straight to the computers in the library while we older adults browse the aisles).

You would think that profit-driven companies (and their stockholders) would see the money to be made. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to change. Admittedly, I didn’t get into Internet journalism seriously until October 2009. Even my fiction didn’t make it to the digital world until 2007 when I signed up for Hell, my PC is from 2005 and my cell phone begins with the letters T-R-A-C. 

But, even I have long recognized the future.  So have others. Until then, though, the little guys will scarf up all the profits and get first dibs on the hottest new writers.

I don’t know if the Big Six will ever change. As C.J. mentioned yesterday, Simon & Schuster signed that print-only deal with John Locke, so maybe someone finally installed a skylight in that thick glass ceiling. On the other hand, big corporations keep forward thinkers on notoriously short leashes, waiting for them to fail so they can say "I told you so."

Will they finally see the future and embrace like Amazon and Barnes & Noble or will they ignore it like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster did with NetFlix and Redbox?

I’m tired of being scared about my industry, so I’ll hope for the best and hope they don't continue to fail me.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Times Change - The Big Six Do, Too!

This week here on Wicked, we're talking about changes in the publishing industry. The biggest story I've heard in the last few days has been John Locke's print only deal with Simon & Schuster.

He got to keep his ebook rights and can price them however he sees fit. Good for him!!

Why is this such a big deal? Well, it proves the big six is finally willing to think outside the box. Previously, they have always grabbed all the rights they can on a book. It's lead to them pricing ebooks out of the market and even occasionally having their print books listed at under the price of the ebooks -- just a few short months after the titles release.

The old model of "three months to sell" and then your title is rotated by bookstores off of shelf space, still exists. But for small authors with a strong Internet presence, a low price on an ebook, and the dogged determination to sell their little hearts out, it has been proven they can reach more readers over the long term than the big guys can short term.

Take my own July sales figures posted a few weeks back as an example. Sales slowed down quite a bit in August, but they by no means suck. If I had been signed by a big name I'd have more book store presence, sure (compared to right now, which is nil). When considering the Industry's unwillingness to pour money into an untried author, I'd still be doing what I'm doing. My agent informed me I'd be selling just as hard with the big six as I have been without them.

No book tours for the little guy means we need to sell from our computer terminal. We blog, we tweet, we post on FB, some even do book trailers on youtube and live readings in podcasts -- the numerous ways to reach readers is more diverse now than it was just five years ago.

Would I accept a large print deal that allowed me to keep my ebook rights? You betcha. I'd sign that puppy in a heart beat. I don't think the publishing giants will ever fall, like so many others have predicted. Their reach in print distribution far outweighs the number of people who own ereaders -- especially in foreign markets.

Print won't ever die, but I do think the coming years will weed out the small and large publishers who don't think outside the box, like Simon and Schuster has. If I bust my hump building my readership and hand selling almost every ecopy of my book, why should I give that hard work up?

I may not be anywhere near selling what Mr. Locke is. But give me a few more titles under my belt and then we'll talk ;-)

~~ C.J. Ellisson ~~

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Valor is My Choice

Genre: Science Fiction / Subgenre: Space Opera

My favorite space opera series features Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr. Her goal is to keep both her superior officers and her troops alive as they face deadly missions throughout the galaxy. She more than proves her mettle when a diplomatic assignment and a scientific expedition both turn dangerous.

The Confederation Series is penned by Tanya Huff, better known for her Blood Books, featuring detective Victoria Nelson.

What I loved about the Confederation books is Torin Kerr is an unsung hero in some respects. She's put into these horrible situations and has to figure out how to get her troops and herself out of them. The plots are creative, original and kept me on my toes. I could not stop reading these books. It's the first series that pops into my mind whenever anyone asks about my favorite. Torin Kerr is a great, strong character and the action is fabulous.

My favorite stories are those where the main character overcomes terrible odds. They're the kind of stories I enjoy reading and writing most.

So check these out:

Valor's Choice
The Better Part of Valor
The Heart of Valor
Valor's Trial

There's a compendium of the first four novels in one book. And, I see there's a new one out, Truth of Valor. I'm off to get it.

What's your favorite series in your genre? What makes you love it?