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Friday, November 30, 2012

Geocaching, Jessica Wyeth and The Charity

A few of you readers may be finding this blog via the geocache site and wondering why.

The Charity's main character, Jessica Wyeth, gets around. She was brought up on the north shore of Massachusetts but some unfortunate events happen which force her to assume a new identity and run. Her flight takes her crisscrossing the country. With some respite in Utah and Kentucky, she eventually returns to the Boston area.

Hamilton, Jessica's home town, is prime horse country. It's a beautiful, wealthy, New England town with lots of hiking trails. The surrounding towns are just as spectacular and offer varied trails for people, mountain bikes and, of course, horses. A very important part of who Jessica is as a person is her love of the land and the outdoors - in fact, a bit of that led to her undoing, but no spoilers here. I feel there is no better way to really get a feel for her as a main character than to walk in her shoes - fictionally, of course.

So, "Jessica" is hiking around the north shore area and geocaching. Keep watching this blog, because she is busy plotting a puzzle geocache that is sure to intrigue the most keen of minds. While she's scheming, she's hiking about, discovering amazing vistas, feeding her soul on salt tinged air or a wooded trail, signing log books and putting travel bugs on their way.

Want to see an update of all of this bug's travels? Click here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A2R Marketing: Fiction Writing - Growing a Fan Base

There is no other way to say this. Baby steps.

When I finished the final edits of my thriller and was waiting for the interior and exterior graphics to be completed and approved, I wondered why my experienced and already published friends laughed at me. They had this funny way of looking at me with a half smile on their faces. I think they referred to it as a "knowing grin." I was basking in the glow of having my book published and "out there" and they were treating me a little funny.

It took me a while to figure out why. They were letting me have my moment of joy of thinking my work was "complete" - letting me enjoy the feeling that a huge accomplishment had been made and now I could relax. The realization began to dawn on me when I was sitting back with a glass of chardonnay in one hand and the final proof of my book in the other. Books just don't sell themselves. They need an engine behind them.

Whether you're an independent author or have had your work supported by a publisher, the reality is this: Unless you're lucky enough to be John Grisham and have a full-blown and paid for PR kit, it is up to the author to get the word out about his or her book and to find the sweet spot of the book's fan base. There is no magic here about how this happens. It is good, old fashioned, nose-to-the-grindstone work. If you have a publisher behind you or are working the angles on your own, the skills relied upon are pure business development.

I'm up for that task. Most of my professional life has been devoted to sales, marketing and business development in one field or another. I can see a lot of parallels in getting a readership base going and getting a name for myself in my chosen industry. The one key aspect that is different in getting a book off the ground is the time it takes to develop a fan base. Not everyone reads a book a week, so this growth takes time.

And that's where the baby steps come in. This is not a sprint, but a well-paced marathon - one marked with very tiny strides.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Author Nights and Signings

The author nights and book signing events have begun!

Jabberwocky Bookshop on Saturday, November 17 from 7 pm to 9 pm
The Tannery, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, Massachusetts
Reading, discussion and signing

Morgan Hill Bookstore on Friday, November 23 at 1 pm
253 Main Street, New London, New Hampshire

The Book Cove on Sunday, December 16 at 1 pm
22 Charles Coleman Blvd, Pawling, New York

Monday, November 5, 2012

Terrorism and The Charity

I tried to put a pretty face on terrorism, but I just couldn't pull it off.

My book isn't just a cobbled together flight of fancy by some know-nothing author. It is meticulously researched so that the story line, supporting events, characters and their behaviors all mesh together to create a realistic read. Because the book is written from the perspective of someone impacted by terrorist acts, it's an "Oh-my-god-I-can't-put-this-down" fictional story - not a terrorist "How To" book .

The CIA states on its website that the "Intelligence Community is guided by the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d) - The term "terrorism" means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."

The FBI's site states that "there is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)."

I can put it in different terms: When somebody hates what you stand for or believe in, whether its political, social or religious in nature and they can't change your mind with words, then they're left to intimidate the hell out of you with whatever means they can in order to change your actions, if not your mind. When you're on the receiving end of violence, the acts are seen as pure hatred and cowardice. When you're on the giving end, (I would imagine) you view your actions as loving and brave.

My book explores what happens you a young woman who's life is forever changed as the result of terrorist activities. Remember, terrorism's influence isn't just the bomb in the grocery store. Like ripples after a stone is tossed in a pond, it's influence spreads through every set of eyes that witnessed the attack, saw the grieving families, read the news get the idea. But its influence is also felt in the supporting network around the terrorist - those people who feed, clothe, house, train and pay for those activities. This is where The Charity's life breathes.

At first I thought I could write a legal thriller that inhabited the outer ripples of terrorism without getting too enmeshed - that I could keep a pretty face on it. I realized that with my own experience of hatred in the form of arson that I respected myself and my readers too much to write a dumbed down version.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Emerging Life of an Indie Author

Never in a million years did I think I would need to know what a favicon* was.

If you've read a few of my posts or bio, you know that I was brought up on a dairy farm in New York, that I was a pretty good equestrian (still am), and that I've had a pretty interesting career - albeit a meandering one - in law, investments and biotech. I actually thought I was was pretty savvy. Up until I launched my book, I had never even heard of a favicon or felt that my life was somehow incomplete because of it. But now, in my newly acquired role of "Indie Author", I now am deciding whether I should jump on the favicon bandwagon.

When deciding publish a work outside of the big publishing houses, an author needs to make a choice. Either he or she is writing for the pure love of it and that is the reward in and of itself, or, as is the case with many others including myself, love has its place but we want to reach as many people as we can with our words. Once you decide that global reach is your goal, you have now placed yourself in the world of social marketing.

I've called this my "emerging" life because every day I'm learning more about the tools, techniques, site, blogs and people that populate this space. It's a HUGE space to fill and you have to hone a message, figure out your audience, and focus your efforts so you don't feel like you're chasing your tail all day long. I am only becoming aware of just how large an undertaking getting heard is. I'll write as I learn and will take you along for the journey, too.

There are a lot of writers with their works still in a shoebox or a hard drive and their work will never see the light of day. That's fine for them, but if you want more, then one of your first steps is the 3F Softstart: Friends. Family and Facebook.

  1. Friends: Chances are they have already read your work more than once in its various stages of undress. They've seen your poem or short story in the daylight and have gently told you that its dimply butt is not pretty. So, you went back and worked on its shape and tone.
  2. Family: After a few more reps, you further vet your work by rolling it out to mom, dad and that sister that just doesn't have a kind thing to say about anything. If you're smart, you'll listen very critically to what they have to say. Much of their comments will be good, solid advice. Much of it will be crap. This is the beginning of where you will need to find your backbone and the clear message of what you are trying to say in your work. If you take everyone's advice and change your work to suit everyone's opinion, you will end up with poo on a page. Go to your mountaintop, think about what you were trying to convey when you began your piece, close your eyes and focus in on that message. Then, thank your Aunt Sally for that insightful comment, tell her you appreciate the time she spent reading your work, then do what you damned well please.
  3. Facebook: With the click of a "Post", you will now reach a few hundred of your friends and friends of friends. If you're like most people, this stage is "on the job training". Use this stage for a few items.
  • Readership Feedback and Identification - See who your work resonates with. Who is commenting? What are they saying? Are there any points in common with the folks who like or don't like the work? This is the beginning of knowing who your audience is.
  • Additional Vetting - With Print-On-Demand being as easy as it is, if you get feedback on minor typos and grammatical errors, fix them, upload a clean version of your work, and keep moving forward. If your readers are having a "hard stop" - that they cannot finish the work because it was too long, hard to read or whatever - then stop marketing and go back to revising the manuscript.
  • Launchpad for Your Message - Facebook has a wealth of tools out there for the indie author and the small business person. Click around and learn the difference between "Likes", "Groups" and "Subscribe". This is where your social marketing voyage really begins.
One thing that really strikes me as I take on this new life is how much the lessons of my professional lives come to bear. I'll have a lot more to say about this in later blogs, but I'm not nearly as overwhelmed as I would have been if it were not for years of marketing, business development and personal branding experience. I'll share those insights as I continue my emergence.

*A favicon (short for "favorites icon"), also known as a page icon or an urlicon, is an icon associated with a particular website or webpage. I haven't decided to make one - yet - but I'll let you know when I do.**

**Two days after this post I did.