Monday, October 26, 2015

Book 2 - Pre-marketing Options

Here it is, a mere month before book 2, Reztap and The Quest for the Insane Moth, would have gone on sale and I'm still mulling over my pre-marketing options. I've learned that I've already accomplished some things, I'm right on track with others, and hopelessly behind the eight ball about to get sunk in a corner pocket with the other things.

The rudest note was checking out this link ( outlining what I should do to pre-market my book and when. The timeline starts nine months before book launch! Yeah, that's so not happening. Still, glancing through the list, I did see that I'd gotten some things done already, although that was primarily because they were done for the first book.

Get a MailChimp account - check. Send emails out bi-weekly or once a month - damn. Already missed on that one, mostly because I don't want to fill my the inboxes of my minuscule mailing list with pointless chatter. So, guess I'll be getting a pre-launch email out to them so they know what's going on at least. Putting that on my To Do List, honestly.

Then I'm down to building lists of things, most of which I'm not sure exist or I can reasonably find. Finally, get an author head shot. Thank goodness that's already done. I'm going to be a searching maniac the next couple of months trying to catch up on the other lists...and some of it won't matter because it's already way too late...but not for book 3!

However, with all this insane pre-marketing activity supposedly going into place, I've had to slow roll the entire machine. The "would have gone on sale" is the key note here. Book two is done and in the bag (writing, editing, cover art, book formatting, etc.), but I had to slow everything down for two reasons - one, I want to do things right and there are some prerequisites that still have to be put in place for that to happen. The bigger reason is: I'm simply out of cash.

Starting over professionally and financially since moving here has put us on the edge. It will pass, but it pushes off the publishing date of book two to an as yet undetermined date. I've been advised by a marketing contractor to get "professional" reviews of both the prequel (Mishaps and Mayhem) and book one (The Adventures of Reztap) before I forward book two for the same treatment. All of that will be a three to four month process. I hope to get it started within the month of November, but I can't make any guarantees.

Which puts this whole matter into perspective. What have I learned from this extensive process that perhaps you too, the reader, may be able to apply to your own book marketing adventures?

1. Book marketing is key to a successful book launch.
2. Continuing book marketing has some value but falls off after time.
3. If you're doing a series, get the first books reviewed first; don't start in the middle.
4. There is a LOT to book marketing - see the list above and plan well ahead of time.
5. Marketing is an uncomfortable requirement for someone who just wants to write - but if you want to sell your books as well as write them, it is a necessary evil.

This just relates to marketing. I saw an article that bemoaned the amount of book marketing going on in social media and the article author said "Just write a good book and it will sell itself." Honestly, my jaw dropped open when I read this. It was from a book author who had already written several books and had an audience already. I wondered what he did when he "first" started out? Not advertise or try to market his book at all and it magically sold well? I think not. Even a well written book has to be pushed onto the market with some kind of publicity or, quite simply, NO ONE will know it exists!

So, write your book, get it edited professionally, and start the marketing process. It's a long one, but don't be discouraged. It won't happen fast or overnight - it takes pre-planning and discipline.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Art of Elevating Minor Characters - Arrow

I recently abandoned my in depth study of all things job related and sat down to enjoy something I'd been putting off for a long time - watching Arrow. Specifically, the first seven episodes (I would've watched more, but sleep called my name and I answered.) I gotta hand it to CW - they really know how to make a superhero show exciting, regardless of the elevation of that character in the DC comic universe. I think they've risen to the challenge of putting DC on the front lines of entertainment akin to Marvel's dominance in the movie realm. As I watched the show, I realized a few key points to take away from their successful formula.

The Flawed Hero - Oliver Queen is flawed. He starts out as a flawed brat and undergoes a physical and mental transformation to become a flawed hero. He's pretty good at putting bad guys away, but everything else around him is literally spinning into a whirlwind of crap. He doesn't have all the answers. His solutions aren't perfect, but they're the best he can come up with given his circumstances.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - The CW really went out of their way to through Oliver Queen into an exquisite mess. The lost love, the cheated girlfriend, the broken heart, the best friend dating your girl behind your back (okay, while you were presumed dead), and then, unlucky in love, falling for a dangerous criminal who has a vigilante heart just like his? Wow! Nicely crafted!

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - Family betrayals, secret assassinations, Russian mob ties, and all things in between, around, above and below! It's a delicate balance and intricate dance to include all the elements and keep everything straight. I'd be lying if I didn't say I was looking forward to catching up.

So, why do I think all these things are so great? Obviously, the viewing public likes them or Arrow wouldn't be in it's fourth season. But that's not near the key reason why I'm so entertained. No, it is because, unwittingly, I've woven the same elements in The Chronicles of Reztap! Let's break it down, shall we?

The Flawed Hero - it would be hard for anyone to argue the Tar Reztap doesn't start out seriously flawed. He does change throughout the series, of course, but he still manages to screw things up even with the best of intentions. It wouldn't be funny if bad things didn't keep happening, but I can't just put him in constant peril without some reward for the reader. Tar and his crew of misfits all change and progress, some for better, some for worse.

Romantic Entanglements Should Always Be Screwed Up - Sure, you see Tar going through some confusing times with Princess Slurk in The Adventures of Reztap, and there is more messed up fun in the prequel Mishaps and Mayhem. While it isn't out yet, and I'm sorry for the delay, you'll find things get messy for other members of the Namreg crew.

Level Up the Intrigue and Twists - I'm going to break this to you as gently as possible - there are things woven throughout the entire book series that you will miss out on if you don't read every book from prequel to finish. I have six books planned (not including the all important prequel) and I'm in this for the long haul. There are loose ends, dangling plot lines and other narrative devices meant to keep the reader coming back for more. I'm not totally a doof, though. Each book has its own beginning, middle and end, but there are elements in every book that tie-in to future events. There are really no wasted characters or events, although I'll admit there will likely be no future impact on the story lines as a result of a night with a bottle of Lobotomy Slammer.

In short, I enjoy when writers take the same approach to storytelling that I do. I can only hope I get a fraction of the readers in comparison to the watchers of Arrow. It's a good show and I'm looking forward to catching up a little more on Netflix.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Bump and Grind!

Admit it - it was an enticing title! I'm becoming a click bait master. Seriously, though, it's really all about the grind. Not any bump explored in this article, though that in itself would be interesting but a bit off mark for my blog. The grind comes from breaking into a new job field which takes a lot of time, energy and concentration. I'd be whining and moaning about how this cuts into my writing time if it wasn't for the fact that A) the marketing of my second book is still crawling to a start and B) I need the funds to get the marketing started, which requires becoming good at my new career. It's quite the cart before the horse argument. None of this brings my writing to the fore - in fact, it's really depressed my writing time and production to, well, basically nothing. But, let's be honest, no matter how much I write, it's going to take a long time for my writing to pay the bills, if it ever does. Luckily, that isn't what drives my writing in the first place, so you can look forward to me completing this series within the next couple of years - I'm simply driven to do so!

Launching into a new career is exciting and frightening all at the same time. You see the fruits of the labors of the veterans around you, realize it will take some time to get to that level and, oh my, how am I going to put food on the table? I've embraced the new job and put all my time and energy into making it work. I've been lucky to have such great team members sharing their expertise and showing me the ropes. They've really built an incredible teaching culture here. Even so, it's been a bit of touch and go with the finances. My checking account has dropped below zero more than once in the last three months, and that's not something I've seen happen since the I was laid off ten years ago. This career is all sales and commission. There is no salary. You take a break, you starve (unless you've been so successful, you've built up a hefty nest egg to take time off). I have no nest egg. It's actually going to be a sprint for the next year or two just to keep the creditors at bay. It's frightening that I can't just show up to work, "dial it in," put my butt in a chair and coast for the day if I need to. There's no such luxury in sales. On the other hand, there's thrill in the hunt, adrenaline in the chase and the promise of a reward if you've done your job well and right.

Now, if I could just time travel to where I'll be in six months or a year from now, I'll be walking in and closing like a champion (a possible exaggeration). As it is, I'm still a newbie. I'm hoping I can last to the finish line of the first year, when most new agents have given up and dropped out. Can I hold it together without breaking from the pack and running for the hills? I will say I have one thing going for me - I'm as stubborn as a mule when it comes to sticking it out and giving my all towards success. I've risen to the top tier of pretty much every job I've held by just staying in there and doing a good job, working my hardest and not losing sight of the goal. I can do this if I can just hold out and get there.

Let's drop into the energy side of the equation. I'm middle aged, so I'm not quite as energetic as the spring chickens around me. That may seem to put me on the fast track to failure, but while I'm not the fastest or most energetic, that isn't what actually wins this game. The young look for the quick reward nowadays. If they try it for a few weeks or even just days and don't see immediate reward, some of them are out the door onto another job that looks more promising. I know the value of the slow and steady progression to not just sales but also expertise in the field. Getting to know your products, the sales cycle and your customers takes a while to discover and absorb until you feel like a sales call is second nature, overcoming an objection is child's play and riding the wave to success seems like it was always destined to be. There's a real value to seeing the veterans in the office and knowing they were in the same boat as you when they started. They overcame their inexperience and blossomed into successful professionals. I'm banking on my persistence and tenacity to get me there as well.

I'm fortunate that I'm middle-aged and not a little more advanced in age. It hasn't affected my memory; I'm still able to do the repetitious study and practice that begets expertise. Were I to try starting this career in my later years, I'm not sure my mind and focus would be up to the task. In truth, the only thing I do wish is that I'd started a little earlier in life. Then, I'd be enjoying the fruits of my labors instead of just starting up the hill. Unfortunately, there's only so much focus to go around -  my concentration has to be centered on my job and that definitely affects my writing.

I started book three shortly before I left Texas. It had a promising start, but the stress and activities surrounding the move (and marketing book one) simply drove my concentration from the writing that needed to be done to progress on book three. Truth be told, it doesn't matter in the short term. Book two is months away from being published, although it has been completed. It's now moving at the typical glacial pace of a major publisher, although it's a smaller press involved. There's really no rush to complete book three. Hence, I get to concentrate on becoming better at insurance sales in the mean time.

In all honestly, the transition has been refreshing. Writing led to my time in the acting profession, which increased my improvisational skills and, really, that's at the core of making cold calls on a telephone. The split second reactions you make are at the core of making the first step in a sale - the appointment. My time in IT led to both looking for solutions and handling customer issues which is really at the heart of the sales cycle of finding out what the client needs and then presenting them suitable options.I love helping people and this job actually gets to the core of that desire - I help people transfer the risks they sometimes don't even realize they have to the insurance company. They get protection and piece of mind.

And in the end, doesn't that make it worth the grind?


P.S. You may have noticed me having a bit of fun with the links in the blog. Some are spot on and others take a bit of thinking to connect what I mean with the link. Just wanted to show you I'm still thinking and trying marketing all at the same time!