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Cheri’s Note: This was an uplifting and inspirational way to end another great WD conference!

The Drive to Write–Chris Baty, Founder of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo); author of No Plot, No Novel and Ready, Set, Novel

NaNoWriMo: Writers sign up to write a 50K word novel, from scratch, during the month of November each year. Baty and a few friends first experimented with the idea in 1999 (a total of 6 people). By 2000, 130 writers participated. In 2011, there were 300,000 participants in 33 countries. Six years ago, NaNoWriMo became a non-profit in Berkeley, CA, with a staff of seven. On Friday, January 20, Chris left the organization. On Monday the 22nd, he began his new job as a full time writer.  He explained his decision to make this change with this quote: “A ship in harbor is safe–but that is not what ships are built for.” –John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928.

Baty said that a common trait in others who’ve left the shore is the drive to write. Something else they share in common–they’ve all packed the same four things:

  1. An established deadline.  Set a deadline and then share that date with someone (even a newly met stranger). Ask that person to hold you accountable for that deadline commitment. And don’t ask just one person. Invite several people to hold you accountable.
  2. Momentum. “A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann, German writer. “Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest.” –Isaac Newton. Even if you don’t start out writing every day, commit to opening the document every day. That single motion of opening the document will automatically begin to expand and lead to writing.
  3. An appreciation for messes. Writers need to make as many messes as possible in both the writing and the business levels of this endeavor. Fumbling in the dark, on and off the page, is part of the process. The only way we can better ourselves is to make mistakes–trying and failing first.
  4. Faith. Faith that “our books don’t suck.” That we’re getting better as writers. That our work will eventually mean something. The world holds a lot of surprises–and success is often closer than we know.

If we give ourselves permission to take this crazy path, we have the power to accomplish unimaginable things. Baty says he’s watched hundreds of thousands of people write a book in one month that they didn’t even know they had in them when they started. That’s quite impressive and unimaginable. And we each have the power to do such things.

He offered to have faith for us, on our behalf, believing in our possibilities, because he’s seen them firsthand.

Cheri’s Note: As I said earlier, this was quite a moving and inspirational presentation, and the perfect closing for this conference!

And this concludes my series of summaries on the sessions I attended. But this exercise in sharing has accomplished something unexpected. One of my goals for 2012, as I complete and rebound from the chemo, is to get back to a more frequent and predictable blogging rhythm. Very much in tune with Chris Baty’s “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” point, my need to get these summaries out to you has put me on a daily blogging cycle that I’m hoping to sustain–unexpectedly meeting one goal by accomplishing another. And that, after all, seems to be the story of a writer’s life.

Wishing you all a happy, productive day!

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Writer’s Note: This morning I did get up at 6:00 to write my post on yesterday’s conference sessions. But I didn’t finish writing/editing before I had to get ready for the first of today’s sessions, which started at 9:00. Then the day turned out to be nonstop, without a single break except for the half hour we had to eat our box lunches. I stepped outside for a quick moment to take the promised pictures of the snow, but the snow had already stopped falling, and all of the streets had been salted. So there wasn’t anything pretty to capture. And this afternoon I decided to pitch my nonfiction book after all in the three-hour Pitch Slam. I’ll give you the details when I post about today’s stuff. Needless to say, I was really exhausted when I returned to my room shortly before 5:00. But I want to finish yesterday for you. Then I’ll grab a little dinner. Once I’m ready for bed, I’ll work on the post about today, which I can hopefully publish before tomorrow starts. 🙂

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Early Saturday, January 21, 2012

Good morning! Weather update: Although the sun isn’t up yet (6:00 a.m. as I start writing here), the view from my 27th floor window at the midtown Sheraton is magical. The snow is falling, and the streets below are definitely white. TV weather-casters are all acting like kids. For the past several years, by January 21 in this part of the world, people have been grumbling about the snow, and local towns have typically been running low (or out) of their snow plowing funds. But this year, we’re having our first storm, other than the Halloween weird show. So almost everyone who speaks is excited. This being Saturday helps with the light-hearted reaction! I’m anxious to talk with a lot of people at the conference. There are 600-700 of us in attendance (lower than last year), and we learned from one of the organizers last night that the world is represented–several places in Europe, South America, and 40-some of the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. (I feel fortunate that I only had to drive across the river, which took a mere 20 minutes yesterday!) I’ll take pictures of the snow outside during our breaks this morning and will upload them for you later.

Well … enough of the weather report. Here are my notes from the sessions yesterday afternoon. I’ll be abbreviating and using incomplete sentences in the interest of time, and I’m not going to focus on putting things in bold. So please forgive the imperfections.

My Choice of the Options in Session #1. Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age–A.J. Jacobs, Author (and contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

Jacobs has written three books that I’d never heard of but that I will now bring into my Kindle–The Year of Living Biblically, a NY Times bestselling humorous memoir about what happens when someone tries to follow every rule in the bible, and The Know-It-All, one man’s quest to learn everything in the world by reading the encyclopedia from A-Z. Jacobs referenced both books at the beginning of his talk as a basis for how to write about yourself if no one knows who you are and/or if you think no one cares who you are.

Lessons he learned about how to make people care about who you are and what you have to say:

  • Be expansive. Write about the world, your surroundings, “the setting and the characters” you encounter, in addition to yourself. Create vivid pictures for the reader and give them added value rather than just the rudiments of what you originally outlined.
  • Be compassionate and mindful of others when you’re writing about them in the context of your own story. Remember that once something is up on the Internet, it’s there forever. Maintain a “generosity of spirit,” and don’t use real names. He gave an example of his using a college classmate’s real name in one of his early books while telling a story that painted her as elite and self-indulgent. When he recently ran into that classmate at a reunion, she cornered him and said that his comments are the first thing that comes up when her name is Googled. So, be honest with your story, but be sensitive enough to use fictitious names.
  • Don’t tell every single detail. Memoirs can get bogged down (and thus make readers not care) when the level of detail and the number of story layers is excessive. The importance of omission is as critical as that of inclusion, and what you leave out can be as significant as what you tell.
  • Be totally honest. Readers appreciate (and thus fully engage) when writers have the courage to fully open the kimono. Letting the reader in on sensitive issues/events adds to your authenticity as a writer and is a risk worth taking.
  • Recognize and accept the fact that our job as writers no longer just includes writing. Whether we like it or not, being a writer has become an entrepreneurial business. We need to establish a brand/presence for ourselves, and we need to embrace the marketing elements as part of the creative process. For example, when his book about the bible came out, he wrote several articles for publication that drew from the bible as part of his promotion. One article for Glamour magazine was on sex and love, and another was for an MTV publication on music and dancing, both articles citing biblical passages. Whenever possible, he makes his promotional responsibilities part of his creative endeavors.
  • He views Twitter as a “creativity booster.” He didn’t tell us how he approached this, and the Q&A session didn’t afford enough time for me to ask him. He did reference a book, however–The Future of the Book, by Sam Harris. If I see him walking around this weekend, I’ll get more detail because I’m also trying to improve my Twitter activities. If I don’t see him, I’ll send him an email.

Suggestions for “getting noticed”:

  • When querying, make the first line of your letter/email the hook/lead.
  • Meet the people you’re targeting in person whenever possible. Don’t become a stalker, but be persistent. Tenacity can actually work (over time). And use compliments liberally (but authentically). Being a “KA” can also be very effective.
  • When writing a memoir, anyone can make him or herself fascinating and vulnerable with vivid language and great storytelling. You don’t have to be “famous or important” in order to make readers care about you and your book.

Creatively, Jacobs believes that this is the most exciting time to be a writer. Financially, not so much. Writers need to keep their fingers in every medium possible–blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and anything else you can manage. Self-promotion is a necessity. We just need to learn how to put ourselves “out there” in a manner that makes readers care about us.

My Choice for Session #2. Writing the 21st Century Novel–Donald Maass, Literary Agent & Author. (If I’m not mistaken, one of my blogging buddies–Jacqui Murray, www.worddreams.wordpress.com — had the amazing experience of reviewing one of Donald Maass’ books, Writing the Breakout Novel. For the record, I find him absolutely amazing. Pitched to him at a couple of conferences about five years ago, before Separation of Faith came together. And as I said last night’s post, his mission in life appears to involve an authentic passion about helping new writers create great novel. In person, the stuff just sort of oozes out of him. If you ever have a chance to see him in action or to pitch to him, don’t let the opportunity pass!)

Maass began his presentation by explaining the inspiration behind his 21st Century Novel book, which will be published by Writer’s Digest Books later this year. He said that over the past several years, he’s been noticing that a number of literary novels and unspecific genre books have not only been hitting the NY Times Bestseller list but staying there for as long as one or two years. The Art of Racing in the Rain was one example he cited, and that book just happens to be one of the best novels I’ve read in decades, or perhaps ever! Totally turned me into blubbering mush. Maass shared the emotion, which is created by other novels that had been catching his attention. So, he decided to begin doing research on the specific reasons why books like Racing in the Rain hugged the bestseller list for such unbelievable lengths of time when other genre-specific novels far more acclaimed and being developed into movies did not have the same bestseller list staying power. The result of his research turned into Writing the 21st Century Novel, and books like Racing in the Rain became what Maass now calls “high impact fiction.”

Summary of Maass Conclusions:

  • There’s a rise in cross-genre fiction.
  • Straight genre fiction is declining and is being replaced by “high impact fiction,” which is a hybrid–telling a great story that reaches readers in powerful ways while also using old-fashioned, classically beautiful writing.

He then walked us through several plot and character development exercises, asking us to use/visualize elements of the novels we’re currently writing. He said that his 21st Century Novel book will contain close to 400 of these exercises, and he gave us a good taste of what those would be like. Even though I’m focusing on my nonfiction book right now instead of my third novel, I found his exercises very effective and invigorating. Made me want to get to work on that novel sooner than later. Can’t wait to see what else will be in his book.

Summary of Maass comments as he was putting us through the exercises:

  • “High impact fiction” writers are writing from a place of personal experience, revealing things that are “hard and difficult” through the characters.
  • Author authenticity reaches through to readers’ hearts.
  • Make character emotions big.
  • Excite reader imagination and emotion with something different, something not only unexpected but big. If you think the climax of your novel is aready big, jolt the reader by creating something even bigger.
  • Create an inner-journey story where true change [in characters] takes many steps. Deepen the character. Think “flawed,” “human,” “brave.”
  • Things need to happen in a novel!
  • Recommended reading: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. Author intentionally put the biggest event she could think of in the middle of the novel so she could outdo herself at the end of the book.
  • What fiction lovers are willing to pay for in this tough economy is the combination of great stories powerfully told with incredibly beautiful writing.
  • The focus on the craft of writing is back! (Yay!)
  • Authors are what make a novel great, not any promotion or marketing. (Yay again!)

My Choice for Session #3. Pitch Perfect–Chuck Sambuchino, Agent, and Editor of Guide to Literary Agents (This was a basic/beginner session, especially useful for those who’ve never pitched before. But there weren’t any other choices during this time slot yesterday afternoon. The choices started today, which you’ll be receiving later … 🙂 )

A “pitch” is basically a spoken query letter (or what you find on the back of a book jacket/movie DVD box. (So, this summary can work for you/perhaps help you, if you’re dropping into this blog and just happen to be focusing on querying right now.)

Basic beats of a pitch:

  • 3-10 sentences in length
  • For fiction (which includes memoir in terms of pitching), do not reveal the ending. Peak the agent’s interest.
  • Do everything possible to cut down on confusion. Whether fiction or non, open with a) genre, b) book title, c) word count, d) whether or not the book is complete.
  • State your “log line”–Your story described in one single sentence.

Next:

  • Intro main character(s).
  • Intro something interesting/unique about protagonist, or what that character wants.
  • What is the inciting incident (the event/issue that propels the story into motion)?
  • What happens next?
  • Present the stakes (what happens if the character fails).
  • What other “wacky” things happen?
  • Describe the character arc.
  • Present a non-specific wrapup (not revealing the ending, but creating a sense of intrigue).
  • Remember that the entire pitch should only be 3-10 sentences in length.

For nonfiction:

  • Start with the same “basic beats of the pitch.”
  • What is the book about?
  • What are the author credentials?
  • Present the author platform. Visibility as an author, including blog, Web site, speaking engagements …  What concrete abilities exist right now to sell the book?

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Okay, that completes my notes from yesterday’s three main tent sessions. My promise to you is that, before the weekend is over, you’ll also have my notes on the three sessions this morning, the Keynote Address right after lunch, my details about the Pitch Slam this afternoon, and then the three sessions tomorrow morning as well as the Closing Address. The stuff is really interesting and, I believe, of great value to us as we each pursue our literary journeys. So, my notes are extensive, and I don’t want to shortcut the transcription for you.

Since I don’t have any pictures of the snow, I’m closing with a shot of me in my room after I came up from today’s sessions. Have a great night!

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No … This Isn’t About Me

Not yet, anyway. 🙂 The author’s name is John Locke (www.DonovanCreed.com). He’s a 60-something baby boomer with big dreams, sort of like me. But there’s a major difference. As of June 21, he has self-published seven novels (Donovan Creed, the detective, is a recurring character), plus two unusual western novels (by his own definition), and now a how-to book titled How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! (http://www.amazon.com/Sold-Million-eBooks-Months-ebook/dp/B0056BMK6K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1309223049&sr=1-1). And those five months were all in 2011! Here’s the link to this week’s news about his historic accomplishment: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/47669-john-locke-hits-1-million-on-the-kindle.html

If you’re a struggling writer out there who’s just happened upon this blog, or if you’ve been following this Journey since the blog launched on November 4, 2009, there won’t be any surprise in this news: I purchased Locke’s How I Sold … book for my Kindle within moments of reading two days ago about the man’s success.

Locke does not present himself as a great novelist–a refreshingly realistic perspective, especially since I’ve recently read a couple of best-selling novels, which were published through one of the big six mainstream traditional houses and which I could not believe ever saw the printed light of day. Locke does believe he’s a good writer, though, who’s become a better novelist over time as he’s crafted seven Donovan Creed stories for a relatively small, carefully defined, “niche” audience (the “niche” being a key element of the “system” he presents in How I Sold …). And, even though I don’t think I fit into Locke’s description of that niche, my curiosity was definitely piqued. So, a few minutes ago, I ordered two of his Creed novels–his earliest and his most recent, in order to experience his writing growth. 🙂 After all, the books are only 99 cents on Kindle (another key part of his “system”).

But the most important aspect of discovering Mr. Locke (for me, at least, and I suspect for a whole bunch of you as well) is that, until a few short months ago, he was in virtually the same position that I (and many of you) are in now–where we’re only selling a handful of books, despite back- (and bank-) breaking promotional efforts. He was languishing along with us in the ever-growing quicksand field of self-published authors, taking solace only in his unflagging determination and the encouraging legitimacy conveyed by his readers.

One significant difference between where he was and where I am was that his body of work is much larger than mine, due, as I learned at the end of his How I Sold … book, to his goal of completing a new novel every eight weeks. In one of the messages I wrote to him after finishing his book, I suggested that, whatever method(s) he uses to create a novel every eight weeks might be a great subject for his next how-to book! I already know that I’m taking way too long per book, but I’ve been working with the goal of producing a book each year. The idea of cranking out six per year never even flickered through my head. In fact, I’d be happy with a novel every six months. Would I buy a book by Locke that explained how he creates a new novel every eight weeks? Especially since that book would undoubtedly be priced somewhere between 99 cents and $5? Well … let me think.

At any rate, in less than six months, John Locke went from selling dribbles of his books on Amazon and other sources to being the first self-published author (and only the fifth or sixth author of any kind) to break through the 1 million book level on Kindle. And this wasn’t just by happenstance. He created a plan–a “system”–which he follows faithfully. And then, when his system actually worked consistently, he took a little time (a few weeks, apparently) to write a book that captures that system for the rest of us, in case we’d like to give the concept a try.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do! I’ll use Locke’s system for the nonfiction work in progress, hopefully due out on eBook by early fall, and then again for my next novel (which I’ve decided will definitely be a sequel to Separation of Faith–http://tinyurl.com/3tljkpc).

“Isn’t that going to be sort of risky?” you might ask.

Au contraire! “What do I have to lose?” is the question circling around me. What would any of us risk losing, compared to where we are now?

Imagine this: thousands of self-published authors–even tens of thousands, perhaps–suddenly experiencing wild success through eBook sales! Sure would be hard to marginalize that statistic or question the validity of authorship when paired with such soaring numbers of happy readers!

I’ll definitely keep you posted on what happens–and please let me know if you give Locke’s ideas a try yourself! From the beginning, I’ve been saying that there’s enough room in this dream for all of us!

Suddenly, the lyrics from an old boomer song by Buffalo Springfiled have begun rolling through my head: “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” That song spoke to a whole generation in the 1960s and early 70s about huge and very serious changes taking place in the country. Although clearly on a lighter, much smaller, and far less dangerous scale, I do believe there’s a revolution underway in the publishing world today. And I would like to be on the leading edge. How about you? 🙂

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Novel #3, Where Art Thou?

In a post I published a week or two ago, I mentioned that as soon as the promotional efforts for Separation of Faith were fully underway, the need to start writing another book began swelling within me. And, athough my days have been packed with marketing and promotion to-dos ever since, the time I’m spending in thoughts about the next story is increasing exponentially each day.

Then this morning I ran across a folder I’ve been keeping for years entitled very simply “Ideas.” So, I gave myself some time to enter the folder and subsequently found all sorts of inspiration in my notes that date back as far as several decades. My eye was particularly drawn to a couple of pages written in longhand that I kept while serving on my one-and-only jury duty. I think that was in about 1989, athough I didn’t write the date in my notes.

Because my most consistent idea for novel #3 incorporates a crime (which I think I’m ready to try now that two novels are under my belt), the discovery of the jury duty notes was pretty exciting. Apparently, I must have been thinking “novel” way back then because I wrote descriptions of the eleven other jurors plus the single alternate. I also started a description of the judge but didn’t finish him, for some reason.

That experience was so long ago that I have no idea how much of these descriptions was based on what I was actually observing versus the role my imagination and plans for a story might have played in what I wrote. But here’s a sample, highlighting seven of us:

“Martha–white, age 67, wears glasses, widow, 4 daughters, 11 grandchildren, husband was a Prof. of Engl. Lit at local college. Skinny. White hair. Attractive.”

“Leticia–age 21, black, beautiful, short hair, slightly overweight, great makeup, faded jeans outfit, unmarried (never was), mother of 5-year-old son, handles doctor’s office work (OB/GYN), concerned about time commitment. Never learned how to drive. Neutral about jury duty.”

“Mimi–age 36, black, married, 2 children, legal secretary, gold streaks in her hair, doesn’t ‘see color,’ wears glasses.”

“Kevin–age 23, white, handsome, athletic, long hair, very bright, laborer, h.s. grad., parents divorced, father actor, married, 3-yr-old son. Vision problem. Wants to serve on jury but worried about family/child care scheduling. Wife works. Waits patiently.”

“Donato–age 26, white (Italian), handsome, thick black hair, married, 3 children (1, 2, 3), BA in Poli Sci, working for U.S. congressman, studying for MA. Very nervous. Hands shake when speaking. Dry mouth. VERY INTELLIGENT–very upset that legal education could produce incompetent attorneys that represent poor people who truly have a case.”

“Michael–42 years old, white, Georgia State ‘perpetual student,’ gray hair, not unattractive, very personable, gay.”

“Alternate–Albert–age 20, black, student, unmarried, ‘freaking out’ over missing class. Wrote a note to the judge. Bailiff jumped all over him for not mentioning the problem earlier.”

Well, I have no idea if any of this will serve as a foundation for anything at all. But the descriptions did take me back to what I remember as a wonderful, eclectic group of folks who were thrown together for three days and miraculously managed to come up with what we unanimously believed was the right verdict. They all knew I was a writer and joked about showing up in a book some day. Funny. The images grow clearer as I work to retrieve the memories from so far away. Frankly, I’m very proud of myself for saving the notes and excited about the discovery.

That same file included random thoughts about good opening lines and potential story threads. So, this is sort of an interesting study about how novels can take root–borne of something real that happens to us and then taking on a life of their own from there.

Also, if you’ve been a writer all of your life, you might want to go exploring through your files and drawers. Very possibly you might have written something down on a napkin a long time ago that you then stuck away somewhere. Inspiration is often like the watched pot that never boils. The thoughts start flowing into our heads as soon as we stop trying to force them to materialize.

Speaking of Stuff Found in Drawers

In the same folder as the jury descriptions, I found an essay written about the same time (1990) that I was seriously trying to get published because the “Barbara Bush controversy” referenced in the essay was actually ongoing at the time. The rejections (also saved in the folder) are all quite encouraging–but they’re still rejections in the end. 🙂

The essay’s subject matter deals with women’s roles in the workplace (remember, that was in 1990!). As I mentioned in my Scribd description when I published the essay a few minutes ago, I’m amazed at how relevant a lot of the words still are today, twenty years later.

If you’re interested in taking a gander at some of the stuff writers stick away, you can find the essay on Scribd at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/38697919/Where-Is-Everybody.

Making a Novel “Unforgettable”

If you’re working on a novel, here’s an article that really popped out of the reading pile at me: “5 Ways to Make Your Novel Unforgettable.” It’s actually five different elements of a single, very critical point. Hope you find the information of use: http://victoriamixon.com/2010/09/13/5-ways-to-make-your-novel-unforgettable/.

A Final Thought Combining Both Writing & Promotion

In several articles I read yesterday, various authors spoke to the reality of needing a minimum of six months to even get a novel off the ground. Separation of Faith has been officially launched now for about three weeks. So I’m going to stop running around like an idiot, trying to make everything happen this afternoon.

There’s an endless list of things to pursue on the promotional road, with new angles appearing every day. Over the next month, I’m going to readjust my activities so there’s some promotion and some new writing going on every day. The plan is unfolding, and the Journey is on track. No need to make myself any crazier than I already was.

Perhaps that’s a good thought for all of us to consider while we’re going after this dream …?

Have a good week!

 

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Video Book Trailer

After finishing a draft of this post, I decided to put this part first because it’s so much fun!

This past Tuesday evening, I had my first meeting with the fellow who’s going to be developing my video book trailer for me. He’s incredibly talented–not only a computer whiz but also an accomplished musician/singer/songwriter. So, in addition to his skill with assembling the graphics, photos, etc., for the one-minute film, one of his original songs (which is absolutely amazing) will become the soundtrack. And I can’t wait for you to hear it!

That video will, of course, be a huge part of the book’s promotion, and I’ll post the trailer on this blog first (right before YouTube … 🙂 …) As we make progress with the production, I’ll keep you posted.

I think I’m more excited about this part of the plan than anything else except the book itself.

Rising Star Application

Earlier this afternoon, I emailed (finally) the completed Rising Star application that I’ve been working on for the past several weeks. As a refresher regarding what that’s all about: Because Separation of Faith earned the Editor’s Choice designation, I became eligible for the Rising Star program. Reaching that level would be incredibly important since, among other things, a commissioned sales force would then begin presenting my novel to booksellers through privileged publishing avenues that writers (especially unknown writers) can’t get to.

This is the type of support that mainstream authors receive from traditional publishing houses. But such assistance in the self-publishing world is difficult, if not impossible, to find. I’m not sure what other POD (print on demand) organizations offer, but iUniverse has varying levels of marketing assistance available for books that have met their quality criteria (writing as well as editing) and that have been written by authors who are already motivated and organized with a marketing and promotion plan.

Well … the novel did earn Editor’s Choice … and I’m certainly motivated. Also, as I’ve indicated in previous posts, I’ve had plenty of marketing and promotion ideas and directions in mind for a long time. But I hadn’t pulled everything into one place, which is what the Rising Star application forced me to do.

Then, once I was immersed in the process, I started to get a little overwhelmed. The undertaking that will begin in a few weeks when the novel comes out is hugeand as I’ve said to a few friends recently, I must be nuts to be doing this voluntarily. But onward we march.

In an earlier post, I shared a few of the questions in the application, the majority of which required narrative answers. Here are a few more of those:

  • While marketing your book, what will be the challenging areas where you might want to seek professonal help?
  • What kind of research did you conduct when writing your book?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Specifically, how do you plan to market to your target audience?
  • What is the one unique thing about your book?
  • Who are you planning to approach for endorsement quotes, a foreword, or other testimonials?

Sort of thought-provoking, right? How about this one: What things do you not want to do while marketing your book?

I answered, “Other than dancing with a stripper pole, I’m guessing not much.” 🙂

But here’s where the answers started to become overwhelming when all of things I want to do were pulled into a single place:

Question–What publicity do you have planned?

Answer:

1. Publish electronic press release, with testimonials and link to video book trailer to all of my social media sites:

2. Send electronic press release, with testimonials and link to video book trailer to:

  • My email list (1000)
  • Distribution lists of three of my contacts (another 2500-3000)
  • Rotary District Newsletter
  • Hackensack Rotary Club
  • Felician College “Older Is Better” Group (where I’ve been a speaker)
  • Cresskill-Demarest Rotary Club (where I’ve been a speaker)
  • New Jersey state and regional newspapers and magazines (where I’ve lived for ten years): The Record, The Chronicle, The County Seat, 201 Magazine—Northern New Jersey, two regional newspapers
  • Newspapers in areas germane to Separation of Faith and places where I lived for extended periods of time: Kettle Falls Focus (Kettle Falls, WA), The Statesman-Examiner (Colville, WA), The Seattle Times, Bellevue Reporter (Bellevue, WA where I graduated from high school), San Francisco Chronicle (I lived and worked in the Bay Area for 14 years), San Mateo County Times, Atlanta Journal Constitution (I lived and worked in the Atlanta area for 18 years), Cartersville Daily Tribune (Cartersville, GA), Bartow Neighbor (Cartersville, GA)
  • Chambers of Commerce: Kettle Falls, WA, Bellevue, WA, Seattle, WA, San Francisco, CA, San Mateo, CA, Charlotte, NC—All locations are significant to the novel.
  • Libraries: Alpine, NJ (where I live), Bogota, NJ (where I used to live and where there are six copies of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon), Cresskill, NJ (my local area), Hackensack, NJ (where I used to live and where there are three copies of my first novel, The Truth About Cinnamon), Teaneck, NJ (local area). Personal calls will also be made at each library, with particular emphasis on those where I have contacts on their boards of trustees.

3. Upload Video Book Trailer to:

And then …

Question–Please include any marketing plans, suggestions, ideas that you would like to use to market/sell your book:

Answer:

In addition to everything listed in both this document as well as the Title Information Sheet:

a)      Every element of the marketing process will be tracked and discussed through my blog: A Real Journey from Publishing Obscurity to Somewhere Else (www.cherilaser.wordpress.com). The mission of the blog, launched in the fall of 2009, is to share the entire process surrounding Separation of Faith (writing, editing, revising, publishing, marketing) with other writers. Also included are postings of information and links to lots of writing/publishing-related issues, so any writers following me can learn along with me. The launch of this novel will be a very big deal on this blog and one that a lot of people will be anticipating.

b)      I will enter Separation of Faith in the following contests, all of which are distinctly open to self-published books:

  1. Readers Favorite Award–June 30, 2010 (Doubt I’ll make this deadline now.)
  2. ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year–Opens Summer 2010
  3. 7th Annual National Best Book Awards–September 30, 2010
  4. The Eric Hoffer Award–January 2011
  5. DIY Book Festival–January 25, 2011
  6. The IPPY Awards (Indep. Publ. Book Awards)–March 2011
  7. 2011 Writers-Editors Int’l Writing Competition–March 15, 2011
  8. National Indie Excellence Awards–March 31, 2011
  9. Writer’s Digest Self-Published Competition–May 2011
  10. 2011 Hollywood Book Festival (just missed 2010)–June 2011
  11. The Independent Novel Award (by Podler)–Chosen from books reviewed

 c)      I will seek reviews from the following:

  • ForeWord Clarion Book Reviews
  • Twitter Reviewers
  • The New Podler Review
  • Readers Favorite Reviews
  • Top Reviewers at Amazon
  • Kirkus Discoveries
  • Publisher’s Weekly
  • Library Journal
  • Booklist

d)     I will promote Separation of Faith on Kindle, Sony Reader, and the Barnes & Noble Nook.

e)      Once my marketing plans develop legs, I will pursue guest posts on strategic blogs, beginning with “There Are No Rules,” the blog of Jane Friedman, strategic director of Writer’s Digest.

f)       I’m going to create and distribute a podcast of Separation of Faith. (Will attend a webinar on June 24 to learn the specifics of how best to accomplish this line item.)

g)      Using the results from the first six months of marketing and promotional activity, I will approach the following sites for coverage, which are not typically receptive to self-published books unless there’s some sort of buzz:

  • Bookslut
  • Beatrice.com
  • Chicklit.com
  • Bookreporter.com
  • Curledup.com

Stop. Breathe.

I also had to list all of the specific events I plan to hold. Of course, since I don’t know yet the precise date when the book will be live on Amazon and all the other online bookseller sites, I couldn’t list the event dates. (Mid-July is looking possible.) But I do have commitments from the different venues–and there will be twelve events in the first 6-8 weeks, the largest of which will be the Book Launch Party, which I’ll be holding at the Hilton in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, where my Rotary club meets every week.

The answers I’ve shared with you in this post represent three of the thirty questions asked in this application. And even though I’ve been grumbling a lot as I put the thing together, the end product has actually given me a very well organized plan to follow. So, even though I’m praying that I’ll be accepted into the Rising Star program, I’ll be very clearly directed if I’m not.

And reminding myself about the mission of this blog (see Blog Launch Posting on November 4, 2009), I should have a shot of getting there on my own with this new, comprehensive map I’ve managed to develop as a result of the application process.

Guess we’ll start finding out soon enough.

Quotes and Testimonials

This is a really important part of credible promotional materials. I’ve approached several people who I admire very much and who are respected in the world of publishing/journalism/entertainment. Four have said they’d be willing to read the book, and three of those are already doing so. Of course, there’s always the chance that one/some/all of those folks won’t like what I’ve written. (Yikes!)

But that’s a chance we have to take, if we want to get some of those great quotes we see on other authors’ books. Right? Right. Scary, though, to be sure!

As soon as I actually have the/any/some quotes/testimonials in hand, I’ll let you know who’s given them to me and what they’ve written. (Did I say yikes yet?)

Authors as Entrepreneurs–Interview

Regardless of whether you’re a writer determined to exclusively pursue the traditional Journey to publishing, or an author who’s looking at the different (and viable) options now available to us, I strongly recommend your taking a look at this seven-part interview: http://www.sramanamitra.com/2008/07/10/opportunity-within-the-long-tail-of-book-authors-iuniverse-ceo-kevin-weiss-part-1/. Kevin Weiss is the CEO of iUniverse, and even though the interview was done two years ago, his comments are still hugely relevant today (a good indication of his insight).

Hopefully, you’ll find something enlightening (or at least somewhat interesting) in what he contributes to the conversation.

Time for a Nap

Don’t I wish. Now that the Rising Star application is finished, I need to focus (again … more … still …) on the reduction edit of The Truth about Cinnamon. Who knew six or seven months ago that all this other stuff was going to take so long. (Of course, my surgery thing got in the way a little. But I’m really doing well now, thank heavens.) At any rate, I need to get that edit finished pronto, because the 2nd Edition of Cinnamon is very important to the Journey in the long run.

Short Stories and Essays/Articles

If you’d like to check out a little free reading, I’m mentioning again that I’ve published several of my short stories and essays/articles on the following Web sites. The free serialization of Cinnamon can also be found at the FiledBy and Scribd links.)

Thanks So Much for Stopping By. Please Let Me Hear from You! And I hope Everyone Has an Absolutely Fabulous Weekend as Summer Officially Rolls In!

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COPYEDIT–SEPARATION OF FAITH

My review of the copyedit is complete, and I’ve been communicating with the editorial board at the publisher regarding a few questions (blond versus blonde being one). Now I have a few little things to clean up, and then I’ll submit the final copyedited manuscript back to the publisher, at which point the book will enter the production phase. The plan is for that to happen today! Yay!

I’ll keep you posted on each of the production steps as they unfold. The development of the book’s cover will be one of the most important tasks to happen first, I imagine. But I’ll let you know.

BLOND VS BLONDE (WHILE I’M THINKING ABOUT IT)

This issue has been driving me nuts, frankly. So here’s what the publisher’s editorial board said to me:

Regarding “blond” versus “blonde,” Merriam-Webster lists the two terms as variants of both the noun and adjective forms; however, “blond” generally refers to a male and “blonde” to a female. An excerpt from Merriam-Webster is below.
 
 
Main Entry: 1blond
Variant(s): or blonde \ˈbländ\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Anglo-French blunt, blound, masculine, blounde, feminine
Date: 15th century
1 : of a flaxen, golden, light auburn, or pale yellowish-brown color <blond hair>; also : having blond hair <a blond man> —spelled blond when used of a boy or man and often blonde when used of a girl or woman
2 a : of a light color b : of the color blond c : made light-colored by bleaching <blond wood table>
 
Main Entry: 2blond
Variant(s): or blonde
Function: noun
Date: 1822
1 : a person having blond hair —spelled blond when used of a boy or man and usually blonde when used of a girl or woman
2 : a light yellowish brown to dark grayish yellow
 
We recommend following the editor’s changes in all of the items you have listed in your e-mail.

So guess what? Because that Editor’s Choice designation is so critical to what I’m trying to accomplish here, I’ve complied with all but a small handful of the copyeditor’s recommendations. (See my original blog posting on November 4, 2009 for my initial outline of “The Journey” and the inspiration for the path I’ve decided to take.)

And I must tell you that, as I was going through the copyedit, I could actually see the transformation of my manuscript from something I had entered in my computer into a quality edited product typical of what we see coming out of traditional publishing houses. Believe me, this has not only been an immensely educational exercise but one that I’m very grateful I pursued!

TRANSITIONING FROM A FOCUS ON WRITING TO A FOCUS ON PROMOTION

If you’ve been to any/many writers’ conferences, you’ve probably heard some publishing professional (usually an author) say that writing the book is the easy part. And, of course, who would ever believe such a ridiculous comment? Well, I do.

In addition to planning the launch of Separation of Faith through all the social media outlets (and I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to do that yet), here are some of the other things on my “Book Promotion” to do list:

  • Primary Web site updates (including book store)
  • Create new Web site for Separation of Faith that links to my primary site and my book store
  • Keep this blog current and full of things for you to follow and learn along with me
  • Press Release(es)
  • Business cards, posters, flyers, newspaper ads
  • Book Launch Party (which will be at a hotel)
  • Finding willing and credible book reviewers (I already have one committed. Need at least five or six or more.)
  • Creating my video book trailer (I have a great fellow who will be helping me with this. The trailer will be uploaded to virtually every site where I have a presence plus YouTube, etc.)
  • Visiting every chain and independent bookseller in my area to garner interest
  • Schedule bookselling events wherever I can find a willing host.
  • Add information about my public speaking offering to every book promo element.
  • Seek/secure interviews on talk radio, local TV channel, local newspapers

In addition to all of this (and more that keeps popping into my head), I will still need to be involved with elements of the book’s production process–and oh, by the way, I also have to squeeze in my surgery on May 4. So “writing the book is the easy part” doesn’t seem so far-fetched now. Whoo boy. Where’s my nap?

A NOTE ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES 

If you are seriously pursuing this Journey of becoming a published author, securing domain names long before you have a finished book is critical. The first and most important domain name to secure is your own name. I registered for “cherilaser.com” after the pivotal conference last September, amazed that I hadn’t already done so when a speaker mentioned the issue in one of the conference sessions. I was really worried that someone else might have already taken that one (because we’re not the only ones in the world with our same names), but I was lucky.

Domain names are very inexpensive (like somewhere around $10 a year), and you don’t have to create Web sites to go with them until/unless you’re ready. But if you don’t secure the domains, creating the most effective Web sites down the road will become a challenge. In addition to “cherilaser.com,” I have also secured:

  • SeparationOfFaith.com
  • TheTruthAboutCinnamon.com (I have a Web site for this one that links into my primary Web site and book store.)
  • BeauBetweenTheLines.com (title for a potential book)
  • WhoMovedTheMeridian.com (title for a potential book)
  • ReinventingYourPossibilities.com
  • MakingYourWordsWork.com
  • ReinventingYourselfAtAnyAge.com

The last three of those relate to my editing business and to my speaking engagement plans (referenced in other posts on this blog). And when I come up with a title for my third novel, the first thing I’ll do is reserve that name.

There are lots of sites where you can secure domain names, but I’m using GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com).

AND SPEAKING OF MY 3RD NOVEL …

For the past month or so, I’ve been worrying about the next book. Why, you ask, when I’m still so wrapped up in the second one?

Well, what if someone who pops up as a result of all that promotional work asks me what my next project is? Being stuck for an answer would not be very comfortable.

There is one project I’m considering–a memoir that I started a few years ago that I’m thinking about fictionalizing. And then there’s the possibility of a sequel to Separation of Faith. But whatever I’m going to do needs to take shape pretty quickly. I can’t dilly dally around and take any more six-year segments of time to write a book. I need to get this process down to a book every year (or maybe between one and two years, she said, trying to imagine the improbable 🙂 ).

A couple of things need to happen in order for me to finish book #3 in somewhere around a year:

  • The story needs to arrive in my head already in outline form, for the most part.
  • The setting needs to be here in the New York City area so I don’t need to travel beyond a normal commute distance to accomplish my research.

The two ideas I mentioned earlier didn’t meet either one of these criterion. So every trip I’ve made into Manhattan recently for this health/surgery situation has found me studying every person and situation crossing my path for a potential storyline. (I keep waiting for someone on the subway to say to me, “So what are you staring at?”) And I guess my subconscious must have been working on this more than I realized because last night I had a dream where I met my new protagonist (a man). He was so real and vivid that I remember everything about him, and I’m rarely able to remember details about my dreams. Then this morning the “outline form” of the story started showing up in my mind.

So I just finished taking an unscheduled hour to capture everything I was thinking into a new file on my computer. I had decided that I was ready to try a novel that included some sort of crime, but I didn’t want to do a murder. So this story has an interesting twist that feels comfortable to me. And I think this one could come together pretty quickly. I’ll post the story’s tag line as soon as I figure out what that is  … 🙂

That’s all for now. Have a fun and productive day! I hope I’ll run into you while tag surfing (planned for tomorrow morning).

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Another Plug for My Mini (See original comments in Post #5, Nov. 11.)

This morning I had an early appointment to get my car serviced, and I expected a long wait, since a gear shift issue needed to be tended to along with the regular maintenance due. So, I took my Netbook (aka “mini”) with me.

During the three hours I was there, I prepared the seventh issue of Cinnamon’s free serialization. That process usually takes between one and two hours due to the formatting problems that resulted from the publisher’s book-blocked version being translated into my computer. I also made progress on the new edit of Separation of Faith (yes, another one–see separate topic in this post).

As I was working, I would occasionally look up at the other customers in the waiting room, who were either watching television or staring off into nothing, as if in a coma. If not for my mini, that might have been me as well :-).

As I mentioned in my November 11 post, anyone who is trying to squeeze out precious minutes here and there, from an otherwise crammed-full life, to get a little writing done (or maybe finish a book) really needs to investigate the idea of a mini. There’s no cumbersome, heavy laptop to worry about–just a little thing that fits in my purse.

I’ve used my mini while riding the bus into the City, while waiting in doctor’s offices, while waiting anywhere. When I suspect in advance that waiting will be a possibility, I simply put my mini in my purse or tote, along with a flash drive. The fully charged battery gives me three hours without a power cord. (Today I had an outlet near me, so the battery wasn’t even an issue. But on the bus, for example, I never worry–and the mini is slightly larger than a sandwich bag, fitting easily on my lap, even in a cramped seat.)

As I said in November, the acquisition of the mini enabled me to finish Separation of Faith sooner than anticipated (which is a good thing, considering how many edits have accrued/continue to accrue since then). So, if you can possibly find a way to secure a mini for yourself, you won’t believe how many extra hours of writing you can accomplish in a week. Just a thought …

Here’s the link I included in November, for some initial comparisons of netbook models:  http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/category/category_tlc.asp?CatId=2814.

7th Free Issue of Cinnamon Available for Downloading

Here you go: http://www.filedby.com/author/cheri_laser/2721580/documents/26568982/. As always, please let me know if you’re giving this a try.

Another Edit of Separation of Faith

Last week I received the first editorial evaluation back from the publisher and, as expected, there are a few more issues that I need to address. My goal is to earn the “Editor’s Choice” designation for the book prior to release, but in order for that to happen, the work has to meet a long list of extremely high standards. According to the evaluation, all the elements of characterization, plot, and setting are there and at the mandated level. But there are three issues I need to address:

  1. The inadvertent mixing up of multiple points-of-view (POV) in a single scene or chapter. This problem exists in a handful of places.
  2. A few additional areas where I was doing the same thing that resulted in the new chapter in my last edit. This time, I was periodically overusing letters and journals to “tell” a part of the story rather than flashing back so the reader could “experience” that part of the story. In each case, I remember telling myself as I was originally writing those sections that the letter or journal would be “faster and shorter” than flashing back. But when I was doing the post-beta readers edit, I was so focused on the big things, like the new chapter, I overlooked the other areas that have now popped up.
  3. A few areas where dialogue needs to be transformed into narrative (again, the point is that I was telling instead of creating the experience).

These are such important lessons that I’m hoping there will be writers out there who recognize themselves and their stories in my situation. When I’m wearing my other hat as a freelance editor, I can easily spot these issues in the manuscripts I’m given. Seeing them in my own writing, however, is not so easy. That’s why we all need to release our work into the hands of others–lots of others–and ask them for specific feedback (not just “this is great”) on the basic elements of a novel. Here are a few links on the subject (because we can never read too much about this stuff):

I received the editorial evaluation back at the end of last week and started the edit on Saturday. This one is moving pretty quickly since the scope of what needs to be “tweaked”–the verb used in the evaluation–has now been narrowed to the three issues. Some portions will take longer than others, because turning a journal entry into a flashback is challenging. But my goal is to be finished by my next post on the 15th, or shortly thereafter.

Once I’ve completed the edit, there will be another evaluation–and then we’ll see where we are at that point, with respect to the “Editor’s Choice” designation. I’ll keep you posted.

Stats Update

  • Blog Hits: 1081 a few minutes ago (995 last post)
  • Website Visitors: 35,383 (35, 278 last post)
  • Amazon Ranking: 2,980,456 (2,909,956 last post)

Have a great week, everybody! I’m looking forward to your comments and to checking you out while tag surfing! (If we get the big snow predicted for tomorrow (Tuesday) night and Wednesday, I’ll try to sneak in a picture or two. We totally missed out on the storm over the weekend. Not even a single flake fell in the New York City metro area. But this new blast has some promise … 🙂 …)

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