Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Smarty Pants

I didn't sleep at a Holiday Inn Express, last night, but I sure do feel smart today. Or at least smarter about some things:

* I'm a half-way decent writer - As evidenced by 1)my agent was able to sell the first two books in my Del Rio Bay Clique series, and 2)both my husband and my mother read the ARC of DRAMA and said in the same hushed tone of shocked reverence, "Your writing is really good." I guess anything else I've written over the years they read with their eyes closed.

* Writers are mostly humble because: it's hard to be arrogant when a mss is returned to you with a 5-7 page letter of things to fix and corrections throughout; the same fear that accompanied sending out your first mss accompanies the second through one hundredth; we rarely get paid rock star money.

* Debating the merits of book promo is popular because there is no right or wrong answer. There are some things that will remain hot topics into infinity because there will never be a solid answer and statistics are hard to come by to refute or prove claims of success.

* I am in fact NOT Superwoman. My first editorial deadline coincided with cheerleading tryouts and wrapping up things at work so I could go on vacation. Those three days nearly killed me. Luckily I ended up with a bad cold, which quickly dried up when I stepped onto the cool sands of Myrtle Beach.

* The more you fight the tide the quicker it pulls you under. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow or risk being caught up in a nasty riptide. I nearly made a first-time parent mistake worrying about Princess Bea's attachment to her paci and the fact that she was resistant to the idea of sitting on the potty regularly. But when I let nature take its course...well, within four weeks she'd given up the paci and started using the potty like a big girl as if she'd only been waiting for the right day. Go figure.

* It ain't perfect but it's ours. I've had my issues with BET, over the years. The low-budget MTV-like programming (College Hill), it's schizophrenia...but now, for the first time I truly respect BET for the groundbreaking cable channel that it is. I grew up watching music videos on BET at a time when MTV didn't (wouldn't?)play videos of black artists. And now, I finally appreciate that the reason BET has to be all things relevant to black culture (from news to music videos) is because no one else ever will.

* Race...fuhgedahbowid. After all the hulabaloo about Survivor's racy-y tactic, I hope those who were up in arms have realized, Duh it's reality TV! But the unintended lesson (for any lesson learned from RTV is damn sure unintentional) was that even when divded by race, people group by needs and similiarities. In the contestants'case it was need to win the money. And ultimately there were two groups, not four - one who did the slacker thing and one who did the strategy thing. Also, hello can we finally admit it takes more than sharing a racial line to keep people harmonius? Every single "ethinic" tribe had someone who felt they did not "fit" with their race Nate (by his actions), Billy and Cao Boi (by their admissions). It may have been a silly low-brow marketing trick to get viewers, but Survivor still managed to prove that people are way more similiar than they are different.

* The Internet makes it easier for people to be a**holes. As an avid blog reader, forum addict and Yahoo Group fiend I'm used to people speaking passionately about their views. I enjoy healthy dialogue. However, I'm always somewhat shocked (and annoyed) by those who post Anon in order to spew ignorant drivel. It's okay if you're an a-hole. Embrace it. But at least use your regular tag, so the rest of us are aware.

* Even if we're not ready for '07 it's coming anyway.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Flip The Script Friday: NEWS Flash

P loves questions. Keeps me from having to think too hard about future blog posts.

Here's one:

What do you think of newsletters? I'm thinking of doing one but don't know what should be in it, if I'm not published enough, and well, a number of other things.

I like newsletters. They're a great way to build name recognition and keep people informed. But keep in mind, a newsletter is a tool used to communicate to an internal audience, rarely an external one.

Okay, sorry, lapsed into PR jargon.

An internal audience are those people who care enough about you to receive one more piece of mail (the newsletter) in their inbox. Which means, they already know who you are (an author) and what you do (write books).

An external audience would be the other 20 million people in the world who have no idea who you are.

Websites, Myspace and Blogs are great tools to reach an external (i.e. wider) audience. They're mediums by which people discover you.

Newsletters are "insider" tools of the trade and are outlets by which you help insiders (your loyal readers)discover more about you.

So, first things first, only put out a newsletter when you have news to share.

I know it sounds simple enough. But the problem with newsletters is they end up being full of, well, junk because the issuer of the newsletter feels pressure to put one out on a regular basis whether there's news to share or not.

Fact is, it can come out as often or as infrequently as you'd like it. Mine comes out whenever I have something to say. So far, I've only issued two newsletters in six months.

But since potential readers are typically opting-in, it's safe to assume they want to read it. So they'll wait on the news, expectantly you hope.

Regarding content, newsletters should announce professional highlights:

- won an award

- book made the best seller list

- Got a great review

- appearing or speaking at an event

- New contest or announcing contest winners

- new book sale

If you're unpublished, center the news around milestones: got an agent, project making the rounds at XYZ publisher, articles appearing in XYZ mag. Whatever you're comfortable sharing.

It's never too early to begin building name recognition.

No matter what, respect your readers' time. Brevity is key when designing a newsletter. Announce your news, which would include a description that explains why it's news, and call it a day. Throw out the concept of a newsletter article and think of it as an articl-ette. A paragraph should do it.

And keep it to no more than three new announcements per issue.

You want it to be a quick, informative read.

For those insistent upon using a newsletter as a tool to reach people who know nothing about you, I'll say this - it will be like pushing a boulder uphill.

There's so much white noise and chatter out there: "read my blog," "check out my Myspace," "visit my website," "here's my live journal," "read my e-zine..."

One important distinction, every single one of those things EXCEPT the newsletter are sites the person can visit on their own time. A newsletter is usually pushed to someone's inbox. It's intrusive. And people don't look kindly upon mail they don't want.

It's best if a newsletter is something that a person discovers on their own. Some may disagree with that. But let me ask you this, how do you feel about spam? Or people on Myspace who send this message, "Come read my blog."

Do you ever?

I don't. I read what I want, when I want. Half the fun of reading blogs, for me, is discovering them by chance.

People who find your book, your work or you interesting enough will subscribe to your newsletter.

Don't be discouraged if it takes a while for your roster of recipients to grow. If you're mentioning the newsletter via other marketing tools - website, myspace, word-of-mouth, people will find their way and opt-in.

I'm not, however, against using a contest as a way to get people to opt-in. Because, again, I'm assuming those who enter the contest are already on board and going along for the ride willingly.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Night Geek Girl

How rockin' is my life?

First, I caught the tail end of Man vs. Wild.

Have you ever seen this show on Discovery?

No, lie, it's enthralling.

Bear Grylls is really well on his way to becoming the Steve Irwin of survival. Dude was dropped into the middle of the Savannah with nothing but the shirt on his back and was just as non-plussed as if he were walking through the mall instead of wild animals on the hunt.

Seriously, when he bit into the Zebra carcass I was like, Ewwww....sweet!

I've seen two other episodes of this show and it ain't a bad way to spend an hour.

Crocodile Hunter fans, it's worth a viewing. Comes on during Discovery's Survival Friday at 9 p.m. Followed by, I Shouldn't Be Alive - which, is another good one.

But I passed on ISBA and tuned into Lord of The Rings - Return of the King. Amazing how I came into the movie two hours after it started and still have TWO hours left.

That Peter Jackson, some storyteller eh?

Sure, I've already seen the movie. And since it's on cable tv complete with commercials, it's like ten hours long. But, you know, sometimes a girl has to get her geek on.

And tonight is a good night for it as any.

The hubsters out.

Princess A is off at yet another sleepover. What a wretched existence a tween's life would be without the S.O. Geez, she might actually have to spend an ENTIRE weekend home with me, Bea and the hubster. ::shudder::

And after an hour and forty-five minutes of Kipper (yes, 105 minutes!) I finally declared an end to the British dog's siege on our TV and put Princess Bea to bed.

I feel like a geek, not because of what I'm watching but because of the degree of enjoyment it brings me.

And who wouldn't get enjoyment from watching Orlando Bloom?


The hubster was the one who had interest in seeing the LOTR movies. I went along willingly enough. How often do such epic movies come along anyway?

But by the second installment I was going purely to watch Orlando whip that bow in his little elf suit.

When a guy is hot as an elf, you know that's some mad hotness.

Ooh, which by the way, anyone else think that Ozzy on Survivor is a very yummy latin Orlando look-alike?

Mmm, mmm, mmm!

You know, I could be the glam girl out clubbing, drinking Cosmos and toasting my deliciously cool life. I'm fairly versatile and clean up pretty nice. And I've been known to do the boogee chick thing time to time.

But for this moment in space, tonight, time to myself, no kids bickering and calling my name and no husband demanding...small talk (didja think I was gonna say something else?)is way cooler than being in some loud club sipping on a $15 drink.

Okay, it's been like thirty minutes since Orlando flashed on screen. TNT is lucky I can't fast forward this baby!

Flip the Script Friday: Good Story Trumps Promo

Ally Carter once pointed out in her blog, that she did a lot of promotion (including a lot of promo worrying) for her first book. The experience led her to believe that promotion should be put into the proper perspective, because ultimately it's all about the story.

I respect Ally's POV because she's come full-circle with the issue. She's someone who has hired an independent publicist before and tried a variety of promotional strategies. So she's not waxing philosophical on the art (i.e. mad randomness) of promotions. She's speaking from experience.

And I don't disagree with her.

If a writer is thinking about promo before the story is penned, that's a problem.

But, it's the two-faces of the issue that make promotion one of those vague, squishy things that you never quite grasp.

Face one:
Authors are expected to promote by their publisher. Whether this is something stated directly or indirectly, it's expected.

Face two:
Few authors start out knowing exactly what promo road they should take, which causes a low-grade panic and results in promotion being talked about as much as craft. This then leads to craft and promotion being put on the same level and viewed as equals.

They aren't.

Craft is first. We're writers, not PR people (err...present company excluded).

So today's post is once more about emphasizing what I've now come to think of as the book promo mantra: Minimum output for maximum exposure.

Minimum is relative, by the way. It's defined by your financial resources, the well of time at your disposal, and individual talents (i.e. if you're not big on public speaking, maybe school visits just isn't for you).

The following activities are promotional strategies that anyone can tackle. Best of all, you can control to what degree you tackle them.

1) Building a website - Why wouldn't you? It's like having a listed phone number. I'm even going to say (and I'll probably get a few who bash this notion) that the site doesn't have to be glitzy and glamory (so made that word up). People go to websites for more information. So just make sure it's informative. Oh, but still visually pleasing. Stay away from the text heavy!

Minimum output: Your name as the URL. Website contains a bio, book excerpt, link to Amazon/bookseller of your choice and contact info. Contact could lead directly to your email or, for the gun shy, to your publisher.

2)Bookseller Relations - Sending local/regional booksellers a note introducing yourself and the book can't hurt.

Miminum output: An intro, followed up with stopping by to sign copies in stock.

3)Myspace Page: Myspace is a tool for the young. It's a social networking site and was never meant to become as promotion oriented as it has. If you're looking for young readers, chances are they've tuned out the 100% promotional Friends. However, just because they may tune out those approaching them, creating a page is another way for them to find you.

Minimum output: Create a page, include all key book information, friend a few youngsters you already know and see where it goes.

4) School Visits - Remember, if public speaking isn't your thing, skip this.

Minimum output: Only doing the school nearest you.

5)Book marks, postcards and other goodies - Doesn't mean you have to order hundreds and thousands. Start off with a small number. When they're gone, buy some more.

6) Media outreach: A little bit of ink can go a long way.

Minimum output: Only pitching to your local paper and alumni rag because they're talking to the people that will likely care the most about your success.

7) Internet book review sites: There are lots of them. Most only require that you send them a copy of the book and some only do good reviews (i.e. if they find nothing redeeming about your book they'll say nothing).

Minimum output: Identify the sites which have an actual following and choose one or two, maybe even three. You could go broke sending book copies to every single one!

Here's the thing, just because promotion is something we have to do doesn't mean it has to take up as much time as writing.

Choose the strategies that suit you, do them and be done. No worries.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

It's a good thing that...

* I have tough skin

* Enjoy speaking with young kids

* Understand that the teen group mentality is only as intimidating as you allow it

I went to speak in the Teen Room of the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County yesterday. It reminded me why I never went into teaching.

Just joking.

Well, not really.

The group was much larger than I expected and surprisingly enough, the majority were boys.

The Coordinator, before asking me to come in, indicated that many of the kids were interested in writing. But ah, the kids pretty much made a liar of him. Because when I asked how many of them were interested in writing, maybe two raised their hands. When I asked who enjoyed reading, about four raised their hands - none of them girls.

Geez, tough room for So Not The Drama.

But I wasn't there talking about the book. I was talking about writing and how powerful words are.

Still, when one little boy said he had no "use" for reading, it was a crystal moment of clarity regarding how the young mind works.

It's very very engaged in the moment at hand and often unable to analyze (or even explain) broad sweeping statements.

When I engaged him re: so how do you acquire information if you never read. He pointed out the internet.

Ummm...yes, don't you read websites?

He said, not all of them. Some have audio.

Alrighty then.

But that's the thing. I've worked with kids my entire career. Ironically, never in a paid position, which is why I've probably enjoyed it so much. No matter what I've done professionally, I've always volunteered in some capacity with youth. So I'm used to their colorful, if somewhat flawed logic.

I'm rarely shook by their candid observations and off-handed insight.

It leads me to suggest, to my fellow writers, if school visits are in your future to a group older than ten years old, get your verbal sparring gloves out. Kids love to test you. And I truly believe that old cliche, they can smell fear a mile away.

Ask any mild-mannered substitute teacher.

I asked the group if any of them were interested in going to college and about seven or so raised their hands. So as I'm talking about the importance of being able to articulate who you are via a college app and/or essay, one boy asked did I attend college.

ME: Yes. Why do you ask?

HIM (voice of petulant challenge): Well, you asking us if we're going and what not?

ME: No, I didn't ask if you were going. I asked if anyone was interested in going. But yup, I went to college, graduated too.

See, they live for that. He was trying to "catch" me wrong. But that's the beauty of being a kid. You're so self-involved you forget that 9 out of 10 adults is actually smarter than you, though you don't believe so.

And he saw the difference in his sentence vs. mine. His scrunched up face of defeat told me so.

Overall, the kids were mostly fidgety and only half-interested.

I didn't take it personally.

It was 4:30.

They'd been in school all day and now were being asked to sit and listen some more.

The B&G Club is usually their time for a little structured unstructured time.

So you know, unless I was going to pull a few big heads out of my pocket and start handing them out, keeping their attention was going to be a challenge from jump.

By the end, the group of 20+ had dwindled to half that. I ended up with about six in a small circle and had the closest thing to a more focused discussion than the entire presentation had been.

Throughout the thirty minutes I was there, the ARC of So Not The Drama was being circulated around the room. I saw kids reading it (always a good thing) and some just flipping through (never a bad thing).

One, a boy, said he liked it. I was surprised because I've always been curious how male readers will take DRAMA.

One, a girl, asked if she could have a copy. But it was clear she was asking for the novelty of having the book, not for the sake of reading it.

I tell you, I'm not sure how much more of this glamorous rock star author life I can take. Keep this up and my head may explode from all the adoration.


Shout out to the Boys & Girls Club. You guys are wild!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm on a new drug...

It's called PLANNING.

I must take a dose every single day or risk losing my ever-loving mind worried about my book release.

This drug isn't for everyone. There are some people who like nothing more than to fly through life by the seat of their pants.

I envy these people and their whole "hey, no worries," philosophy.

But, secretly, I want to take their head in my hands and smash their faces into my piles of paper that outline my "strategic" plan for success and say, "Drink, drink from the fountain of success, you foolish dreamer. Mwhahahaha."

Seriously, No Worries People, do not brag too much about how you take one day at a time and life is better for it. Those of us who plan do not want to hear that.

But, now hear this, just because a person likes to plan does NOT mean they believe they can plan for everything.

It's my biggest peeve, this perception that because I like to strategize I'm under a delusion that I can control and plan for every single possible circumstance.

I already know that I cannot.

What NWP's must understand is that planning is the drug we take to "calm down."

Bleh! I hate when someone tells me to calm down.

But that's another post for another day.

My point is, planning helps drive the jitters of the unknown away. Even if only half of my plans can realistically be implemented, I feel better knowing that I've thought it through.

A lot of talk about book promo has made its round, lately. Probably because I hang out in places where a lot of other debut authors and aspiring authors relax. And yes, part of us relaxing is fretting about the writing and publishing process. Leave us alone, we're happy this way.

Anyway, how much promo really impacts book sales is hotly debated. But the truth is, most authors feel the need to plan for it because it's better than doing nothing.

Doing nothing feels too much like you have absolutely no control over it.

And even though we DON'T have any (much?) control over the success of failure of our books once it's on shelves - we'd like to think we do. Planning is the pill we take to feel better about the stark reality.

The dangers of planning arise when it becomes overwhelming.

It's a balancing act.

Whenever the silence sets in (you know, no news from my agent or editor, simply because there is no news to be had), it's usually followed by this panic. This feeling of "I should be doing something."

When that happens, I have a few choices:

1) Let it drive me up the wall

2) Call my agent and whine

3) PLAN something, anything!

Nine times out of ten I choose #3.

Today, as I sat wondering what my pub would do with the recent batch of ARCs and when they'd do it, it began to incite panic.

I was pretty much on the edge of losing it when I thought - Well, wait there are some things I can do.

So I did a little research on outlets I'd like to contact once the book is released. I thought over some topics I could speak on to various youth groups. And immediately, I felt better.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't go planning all willy-nilly without intending to implement the plans. But some days the planning is more a calming therapy and less a hard-core bible to follow.

Some things I planned for when the book was still unsold are laughable now.

Some I've actually done.

Some may still have some merit, if tweaked.

What's important is, on the day I outlined those plans, it likely kept the demons at bay.

Some people say the best way to take your mind off your current finished project is to start a new one. And that's what planning is for me.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

That's gonna leave a bruise, later

To say I'm a pop culture fanatic is like saying Donald Trump sort of likes money. I live for talk of music, movies, television, fashion, sports...whatever. If it's related to popular culture, I have an opinion.

The latest batch of America's Next Top Model candidates? None of them strike me as worthy.

Diddy's new CD? Let's just say it won't be parting me and my $11.99 anytime soon.

Project Runway? I'm obsessed and 100% bummed that Jeffrey won. :-(

See, what I mean. You can't shet me up!

Well, it occurred to me that my very vocal musings of pop culti things on my blog may soon come back to haunt me the second my book is released. I'll go from Pop Culture Observer to Pop Culture Observee. that a word?

And I don't mean - Oh I'm so great, everyone will be talking about me.

I mean, Oh My God, people will have an opinion about my book and won't be shy (I never am) about voicing it.

I don't take criticism very well. Constructive, shmstructive. I hate being hated. Everything I do I want to be praised.

Praised, I say.

The prospect of having my fiction put under a microscope and open to an Amazon review/rating, gives me night sweats. Yet, admittedly, I haven't changed my opinionated ways.

I still wax on about what I like or don't like. It's our basic right as pop culture fans, right? To love or hate someone that's put themselves out there for our viewing/reading pleasure.

I giggled my butt off when Candice got voted off Survivor. And no, it's not right to be gleeful in someone else's misfortune. But man, she so deserved it!

Okay look, but when DRAMA comes out, be gentle with me is all I'm saying.

I mean, I can riff on Diddy. He's a fafillionaire. Me not buying his CD, hurt nothing.

I'll make a deal. When I become a fafillionaire...THEN you can go all rough and tumble with your criticism.


Monday, December 11, 2006

It's like having a party...

I've come to look at releasing a book like having a party and wondering if anyone will show up.

When you throw a party you've put a lot of time and energy (usually money as well) into it:

You've planned what food you'll have. Maybe even spent a good part of the day cooking.

You've picked out the hottest outfit - which may have even set you back a fin.

You've cleaned the house - usually no small task, since how often do you actually dust and mop on the same day?!

And you've angsted over the music - something that's a little less painful thanks to the miracle of the iPod. Though, truthfully, just 'cause you love your playlists doesn't mean anyone else will. But oh well...

After all that, you stand by the door, smile plastered on your face thinking - Okay, you can begin arriving now...okay!

As you wait, all the little things you thought mattered (getting picky about who was "in" enough to get an invite; only wanting blue M&M's served) go out the window. You just want someone, anyone to show up!

It's not until that first person shows up, then others begin to trickle in that you actually breathe. By the time ten or more people arrive you're no longer worried who else is coming. I mean ten is by no means a huge number. But it only takes a few people to equal a party. And if it's the right people - the ones who love to talk and dance into the night, then your party is a success.

If only 10 people show (and maybe you've invited 20 or 25) and every one of them has a good time, you can't wait to rub it in the face of the other ten who didn't.

You even know what you're going to say if they have the nerve to ask how it went.

"Oh my God, the party was hot. You so missed it."

Well, as I wait for March 6 to roll around I keep wondering who will show up for my party. Will the cool kids come? And by that, I mean any reader who picks up So Not The Drama and loves it.

I've done all the "party" planning that I possibly can and the guest list - readers across the nation - is off the hook.

The entire month of March will feel like those first few moments when the clock has struck "Party Time" waiting for my first guest to validate that my party was hot enough for them to roll through.

Gah! An entire month like that!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Flip The Script Fridays: Publicists, Yay or Nay?

Err...I was supposed to post this last Friday. No excuses, I just didn't. Moving on...

Everyone knows that I'm a PR chick on my FTJ. I'm honest about the trial and error effectiveness of PR, but am aware that by pointing it out, it may come off as if I'm PR bashing. Or indicating PR doesn't work.

I'm not and it does.

What I'd like folks to take out of my Friday PR ramblings is - you can't gurantee PR results. And even if you could, there is no connection between those results and book sales.

If an author reminds themselves of that as they decide what PR strategies they'd like to undertake, it makes the ordeal of promoting much less stressful.

So, back to the matter at hand - should an author hire an independent publicist?

I'm going to present my POV on both sides of the answer:

YES if...

* You have read and agreed upon what I've said in paragraph two. No guarantees. And any publicist that tells you they'll guarantee placement here or there is, well, lying.

* You can afford to hire a publicist that has the proper connections. PR is PR. I've done it for years and feel like I can pitch just about any product, service, company. Matter-of-fact I have, from healthcare to fashion eyewear. BUT, you're no company. You can't afford (likely) to put a publicist on retainer for months at a time so they build your brand. Go with a publicist that will need the least amount of ramp-up time. Someone who has solid connections with the media that is interested in authors and book stuff. Not someone who has to spend the first two months of your three month contract learning who the right people are.

* You understand that having a publicist work with you for a month is a waste. Go into this thinking three month commitment, minimum. Remember, they've got to buy into you (i.e. know what your book is about, know your 30 word bio by heart etc..)and then try and sell your message, convincingly. A month is not enough.

* You understand that publicity is about slow-building awareness, not a cannon ride to fame.

* Refer to paragraph 2 please. Seriously, this is the one issue I've dealt with nearly every client I've ever had. Even the big companies (Polaroid) do not understand why they're the only ones who think they're the greatest thing since sliced bread. Why? Why can't I get them a Wall Street Journal article? Ummm...because they're not the only company doing what they do. And you're not the only author, by a long shot. guarantees.

* Know what you want out of it. And I don't mean "I want to be on Oprah." "I want to be in Time magazine." Those are great things to want. But they're not realistic. And you're wasting the publicists time with such grandiose goals. Since three months is not a lot - choose a goal and an outlet and saturate it. For example:

There's print, radio and television media. Likely you'll have more success if you choose one or two outlets to focus. But if your story is good for all three, go for it. Also, are you doing the national thing? Only want regional press? Are you more of a local celebrity?

Knowing these things helps them narrow their plan and focus on activities that will give the most bang for the buck.

Yes, you want to sell books, but that's not how your publicist is going to get hits. So you better be ready to become an expert on something (look to your book for hints at what you know a lot about), because they're selling you, not your book.

Finally, if media isn't your thing, maybe you just want someone who will handle special event planning for you.

* Outline expectations early and often.

Now, the flip side.

No if...

* You haven't agreed to the No Guarantees clause, outlined above numerous times.

* You can handle some of the light lifting yourself. Surely you can tackle reaching out to local press using the hometown author angle or finding a topic your book may tie-in with.

* School visits are going to be your primary promo tool. You can definitely handle that on your own. Lots of leg work, sure. But you can handle that.

* You just want free ideas, but have no intention of hiring someone. Look around, there are plenty of authors willing to share what has worked for them. Doesn't mean it will work for you. But the info is out there. Leave the brain picking to online forums and let the publicists deal with paying clients.

* If you believe promotion is the key to best sellerdom.

* Your publisher has assigned you an in-house publicist. I recommend talking with that publicist to find out what she or he has planned. Find out what they expect from you. Present your own ideas and see how they can complement and assist with your plans.

* You're frightened to death and think a publicist will eliminate all promo responsibilities off your plate.

It's your book. No one (not your editor or agent) loves that body of work more than you do. Your excitement, not only for your book but your profession, will come through when you speak to people - that's why it's important that you're willing to step up and take the horse by the reigns at some point. Trust yourself. It's not brain surgery, it's your book. No one can champion it better than you.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Race, Race Go Away

Race, race go away come again...never!

If I had one wish, it would be that the playing field was level and that race never played a part in how anyone made a decision.

Forget Cinderella or Snow White - that wish, right there, that's the real fairy tale. Because it's not an exxageration to say that in my lifetime, I'll never see that wish come true.

As a YA writer, the issue of segregated shelving of books does not apply to me, directly. All YA books are put in the YA section no matter the race of the author or protagonist.

A young person will either want to read my book or not. Race will not play a part in it.

So how come the issue splinters into so many pieces when it comes to adult fiction?

The question African American Book section: Yes or No? is the perfect example of how the same facts can be viewed differently dependent upon from whose POV.

* Some stores have an African American section
* Books in that section are put there if they are written by and/or are about black people
* Few non-black readers purchase books from this section
* If a black author writes sci-fi, horror, paranormal, chick lit etc...their chances of duplicating the success of a white peer are slim since their audience is more narrow out the gate

Those are the facts. So what's the answer - African American Section: Yes or No?

Still unsure?

Okay, here are some opinions not easily supported or refuted by stats:

** Segregated shelving of African American books is the easiest way to ensure African American authors find their audience or rather their audience finds them.

** An author's audience is whoever happens to be attracted to/like's that book.

** Readers are not given enough credit in this issue. 1) They will adapt, no matter what. 2) Avid readers will do their homework to find books that suit their needs/desires.

** If generic shelving can be done in YA, it can be done for adult fiction.

Ahh...except, ummm...there really aren't a significant number of YA books by and about African Americans. So maybe that last thing isn't fair to say.

Okay, once more, African American book section: Yes or No?

It's okay if you don't know how to answer.

It's a tricky social question that comes down to dollars and sense. Or is it an economical question disguised as a social issue?

Depends on who you talk to.

I've talked before about the duality, the multiple personality disorder that comes from being a person of color in a nation where the issue of race never dies.

If I say No to the AA section - then proponents of it may feel that I'm being anti-black fiction. Uhhh, I'm not.

The fact that some (many?) black authors have become wealthy marketing solely to black readers is a good thing. Without the AA section, a different story would be told.

If I say Yes - then I'm supporting what some black authors feel is a racist, lazy marketing technique.

Well-established black authors who want their books marketed more broadly feel pigeon-holed by the AA section. Not to mention, a broader audience equals more sales and more money. No one - and I mean no one - ever says, "Oh no thanks, I'm making enough now. Pooh on my potential to gain hundreds of thousands more readers. God forbid millions."

Ay, yi, yi!

Speaking from the heart - and if that gets me in trouble, it won't be the first time, probably not the last - I'm glad that YA books are shelved in one section.

I want the opportunity for my book to touch any reader that allows my book to touch them.

Still, I believe the African American section has its merit. Few new black authors would get their day in the sun or at least would find it challenging to get that day, if it were harder for their audience to find them.

I don't think the answer is an easy Keep it vs. Eliminate it.

It merits discussion, maybe some tweaking and some hard numbers wouldn't hurt.

Surely there's a way for a publisher to see how well an author's book sells in stores like Borders (which has an AA section) vs. Barnes & Noble (which doesn't).

So, maybe the AA section be exclusively for new authors?

Once an author has found a readership, why not place them in the general fiction section where not only their loyal readers can find them but others, as well?

My biggest issue with the AA section is how it's defined. I'm against placing an author's book there simply because they are African American.

If race plays a signifcant part in a book, it belongs there. But, then how come James Pattersons' Alex Cross series - a black detective - is not shelved in the AA section?

Is it because Patterson is white? Or because Alex's race doesn't matter to the story?

If it's the latter, then wouldn't that same theory apply to nearly every book in the AA section?

Why, why, why does race matter?

Because, at the end of the day, publishing is a business. The "low hanging fruit" theory of marketing is common sense for any business. And the African American section is definitely LHF marketing.

So, at the risk of sounding like Howie Mandel (minus the 24 lovely dopplegangers behind me), African American section: Yes or No?

Monday, December 04, 2006

In a blink of an eye...

Most cliches spring from truth. And the concept that things can change "in a blink of an eye," is so true of my life since I began writing semi full-time.

Putting semi seems like a joke. Some days I don't write at all. Other days it's all I do. Come to think of it, that kind of describes my regular FTJ too.

But looking back - and that's what happens at the end of the year, doesn't it? Reflection is inevitable.

Looking back, not just this year but three years back when I was laid off from my cushy, corporate PR job, things have changed a lot.

Four years ago, today, I was hopefully optimistic that I could launch a successful writing career. I took a leap of faith, took time off from the corporate sector, and freelanced.

Needless to say going from corporate to freelance is as close to poverty as I care to get. And, I'm not exxagerating that it's pretty close. If it weren't for the hubster's income that year, my writing income put me well below the national poverty line.

Still, it was an exciting time to have the guts to think I could make something of my writing skills.

Two years ago, I was thisclose to snagging an agent for my YA series before being rejected. I went into a small stupor and it took a few months to get back on the submission horse.

A year ago, I was sitting on pins and needles cursing the slowness the holiday time brings to publishing, as my book sat at four publishing houses awaiting approval/rejection/attention.

2006 has, without doubt, been the

It's impossible to comprehend that it was only February that Kensington acquired So Not The Drama.

That it was only June that I felt like I was going to drown under my deadline, which came at the same time as cheer tryouts and my family's annual vacation.

All of those feel so far away. Maybe that's why it feels like a blink of an eye.

Although, there was no literal blink of an eye change in my life once I acquired an agent or sold the book. And I doubt there will be once the book is released.

I've heard over and over how ordinary R-Day is. Even if I wake up wanting to shout, Hello, World, you can buy my book today! Everything will still be the same. I'll still have to get up and get the kids off to school. I'll still have to come to the FTJ.

And will be different. Not "I'm famous" different. But adding the responsibilities of being an author to my already full plate will be a daunting task, no doubt.

My weekends will be full of promo events. I already have some confirmed and quite a few pending.

I have a feeling our truck's mileage will double.

Identifying how often the fam can travel with me, and how to make it work when they do is a chore I've already begun to undertake.

I'll have to find a way to make life as an author (post publication)as normal as life as an author pre-pub. I know from my experiences with writing that I can easily, easily be consumed by this career because I love it.

Note: I do not have that same problem with the FTJ.

The thought of life once the book hits shelves makes me smile, because I'm glad to finally move to that next step.

But the not knowing what/how things will happen is scary.

Just how much will life change when the book is out?

Someone should write a book about it...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

R.I.P - My tolerance for gore

A moment of silence please...

Thank you!

I don't know if this means I've officially grown up or what. I mean, I still love cereal and can watch cartoons for hours. But, last night marked the death of my high tolerance for the goretastic.

Actually, the ability to withstand eye-gouging, stomach-churning gore is less a kids thing then it is a young adult thing. As a kid, you quickly shield your eyes to scary and gory things. As a teen you pump your fist with joy at the over-the-top grossness of it all.

Well as an adult I'm not only shielding my eyes but turning the channel!

Unfortunately, even reminding myself it's only a movie doesn't do much good to wipe the images away.

The murderer of my tolerance, Showtime's original scarefest, Masters of Horror.

Sometimes, the shows are funny. Last year's episode with Michael Moriarity was the best and had me giggling righteously, mostly at Moriariaty's creepy, yet tickling portrayal of a serial killer.

Okay, so I'm weird to be tickled by a serial killer.

I said my tolerance for gore has died. Not my love of the horror genre.

Other times, MOH is spooky. I still recall the weirdly haunting story of the over-sexed mutant girl. Serious proof that men will...well, watch the episode.

But last night's MOH was just plain gross. I squealed and screeched through the first fifteen minutes. Watched through my fingers the second fifteen and had turned the channel by the final twenty.

I was disappointed in myself.

I truly tried to stick out the entire hour. I did.

But the show spiraled into horrible gore that would make even the producers of Saw wince.

Use your imagination to envision how the following things were used on the human body:

*A steel animal trap
*An aluminum bat
*A sewing needle
*A six inch knife

All very innocent tools on any other show!

An obvious glutton for punishment, I went back and attempted to watch the last seven minutes. When Meatloaf (playing the main baddie) said, "I need something sharp," in a conversational tone, I knew what was what and haul assed from the channel.

I don't know if he found something sharp. And I don't care to know what he did with it if he did!

I swear, I have not been truly afraid to watch a movie since I was nine years old and my aunt Jan forced me to watch (without fingers obscuring the good stuff) late-night horror films. She introduced me to scary movies and took me to my first theatre-film, Poltergeist.

Not since those days, where I'd curl into a ball as I watched fascinated, have I felt the need to run in the opposite direction of what a scary movie has to offer. But last, I couldn't take it anymore.

Geez, what next? Loving foreign films? Or only watching chick-flicks?!

Someone tell me, what is it about the human mind that makes it too sensitive, too sensible and too friggin' intuitive that it begins to process such things differently as you age?!

It's just a movie!!! I screamed to myself last night. But I was saying this AS I turned the channel to a late-night re-run of Ugly Betty.

I won't give up on the MOH series. Dammit, I've watched its predecessors - Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits and such - without issue. And some of those got pretty darn disgusting. So, I will not let MOH conquer me.

Even while admitting I'm obviously getting less tolerant of graphic gore, I also believe (no, I know) the producers of these things are pushing the limits. They're upping the ante on gore to levels that must have censors working overtime.

I read that one of the MOH eps, for this season, was directed by a Japanese filmmaker known for his unsettling movie images. The ep was pulled by Showtime and is only available if you purchse the DVD. It was that disturbing, apparently.

So maybe it's not me.

Still, last night when that woman took that needle and...::shudder::

Yeah, it's me.