Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Books They Don't Read

Yesterday, as I was leaving The Hunger Games, I heard a discussion between a husband and wife. She asked if he had read the second book of the trilogy yet. His reply was: "Not yet, I just don't have time to read a book." I would have passed that off, except I had a similar discussion with someone else, a self-proclaimed "reader" who usually finished between fifteen and twenty books a year.

"I don't read as much as I'd like. I have way too many books collecting dust on my shelves."

As an author, I always think about the competition I face getting accepted by a publisher, but I sometimes forget the importance of the competition from that point on. And I never thought about the additional competitive issue--getting read once someone had something I wrote in hand.

Stop and think about it. If you're an author, or a reader, think about all the books you own which you've never read. Think about all the books you've bought with the thought "I'll get to it."

Why is this important? Because if someone reads one thing you've written, it's more likely they'll read another. It's important because, for me any way, I want someone to enjoy what I've produced. I want them to get their money's worth. Right now, I'm getting ready to release The Ravening on e-book and I'm doing an extensive revision to the original, not only making sure the writing is crisp, but actually changing some of the scenes. And as I work, doing my best for the reader, I ask, "Does it really matter? Why not leave the original alone?" Since so many people browse the books on their shelves and e-readers when looking for their next read, the answer has to be, "Yes, it matters." 

So, for all you writers out there, the next time you go to a friend's house and catch a glimpse of the books lining their shelves (if they have any), ask them which ones they haven't read. If they're honest, repress your shudder and think about it the next time you get to work.

Just something else to fuel your neurosis. You're welcome. 

Friday, March 09, 2012

As Tweet as Tweet Can Be part 1

Jon looked at me and wanted to know about "this Twitter thing."  What would be a good way to promote yourself on Twitter? What the heck can someone do in 140 characters? Who reads it? Aren't most Twitter feeds just mindless ramblings about things which no one cares about?

"Twitter is networking," I said. The screaming had stopped now and I had to change the bucket to capture the rest of the blood flow.

"Some of the people I follow on Twitter give me some outstanding information. They provide useful links on a number of subjects I'm interested in. I've been directed to outstanding informational pieces about writing."

"So what kinds of Twitter posts will you find and how do you get more followers or subscribers, or whatever?" Jon asked.

"Hand me the chainsaw," I said. "Well, Jon, there are basically four or five kinds of tweets and users sometimes tend to use a majority or one kind or another, but it's best to mix things up."

I had to shout to be heard over the chainsaw. "You got the people who communicate through Twitter. They tend to try and carry on conversations. People will communicate back and forth using the @ sign before someone's name to get that person's attention. For instance, one tweet might be: "Hey, @jonzech I'm at the mall. Where are you?"

People think chainsaws can cut through everything, but they can also make an incredible mess doing so. I wiped my face.

"Then you got people who share information. That's something I try and do. I find interesting links, things which I think my readers or followers will find of interest and post the hotlinks. Sometimes, I do it by "retweeting," which means posting someone else's tweet."

"What about if I'm just trying to sell my  book," Jon said.

"Well...lot's of people try and do that, but it can be pretty lame getting constant tweets saying "BUY MY STUFF!!! And trust me, there are folk who do that. I won't mention names, or even initials (J.S.) And there are people who just want to follow, they just want to watch things trending and learn things."

I paused, catching my second wind. "And then there are some people who just want to express themselves. They just want to say something profound, something artistic, or funny. I try and do that from time to time and maybe mix things up."

"Tell me more," Jon said. "I mean is there any sort of protocol? Is there something I can do to be more effective?"

The sound of a police siren made me look up. I hastily undid my apron and started for the door. "Maybe we should finish this later. Come, we'll talk more once we're on the road."

See As Tweet as Tweet Can Be...Part 2

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Be My Yenta

Writers hear it all the time: "You have to market yourself."

It's a mantra.

"You won't find a publisher unless you have a digital presence and unless you've proven that you can tap into a network."

So, here's my question, and one I pose seriously, "What's the best way to market yourself?" Me? I think it's forging relationships and moving through social networking building bonds with a community, not just for self-promotion, but because you enjoy being part of that community. Others obviously take a different view. They tend to speak up only occasionally, and usually when they have something to promote.


And this is not just a message delivered once, but many times across several platforms. There's one horror writer I won't mention who is a human sandwich board moving through Facebook.

I'm asking. What is your idea of promotion? What should a writer do to market himself intelligently and efficiently? I want free advice here. Be my yenta (Note..for my non-Jewish friends..yenta is a matchmaker, but also a meddler, gossip, and advice giver).